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From the Earliest Period to the Death of Demosthenes. 

Tutor in the University of Durham. 

Part I. — Epic, Lyric, and the Drama. 

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From the Earliest Period to the Times of the Antonines. 
By the Rev. C. T. CRUTTWELL, M.A., 

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The present work is an attempt to compress into a single 
volume, for the use of students, an introduction to all the 
main branches of Hellenic antiquities — social, religious, and 
political. Hitherto, in England, such information as is here 
supplied has appeared only in the form of dictionaries. For 
many purposes the alphabetic arrangement under subjects 
is best, but a more logical and systematic arrangement has 
also its advantages. In Germany several monumental works 
have appeared in which Greek antiquities have been syste- 
matically treated, such as the Handbooks of Schomann, Her- 
mann, and Iwan von Miiller. Writing on a far smaller scale, 
we make no attempt to rival these great works in fulness 
or detail ; but we do endeavour to present to the English 
reader the elements of the subject in a more readable 

The share in the work taken by each of the two contri- 
butors is stated on the title-page. Each writer is wholly 
responsible for the part which he has contributed. In dealing 
with a subject of such vast extent, it is clear that no two 
scholars could in all cases write from complete or first-hand 


knowledge. This is a defect inseparable from the plan of 
the work. 

Illustrations are sometimes introduced, especially in Books 
III. and IV., but limits of space required the reduction of 
their number to a minimum. A complete and ordered series 
of illustrations for all branches of Greek Antiquities will 
be found in Schreiber's Atlas of Classical Antiquities, edited 
in English by Mr. "W. C. F. Anderson, which may advan- 
tageously be used as a companion to the present volume. 

August 1895. 





































































560 / 

574 7 
58i 7 



















i. the origin of the drama . . ' . . . 662 

ii. the buildings 67 1 

"iii. scenery 685 

iv. the actors and their costumes .... 695 

v. the production and performance of a play . 704 

General Index 713 

Index of Greek Words 726 






It is universally allowed that the position and physical features 
of a country have great influence on the life and manners of its 
inhabitants, and nowhere may we more clearly trace such 
influence than in the case of Greece. Although Greece is not 
so large as Portugal, yet the extent of its coast is greater than 
that of the whole coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Everywhere 
deep bays and long arms of the sea stretch inland, so that 
scarcely any race of Greeks was out of sound, and none out 
of sight, of the sea. Cicero with truth writes, 1 "ipsa Pelo- 
ponnesus fere tota in mari est." Only the people of Arcadia, 
of Doris, and a few other parts were without a port. And as 
the sea ran into the land, so the land ran into the sea in long- 
promontories continued far out by chains of islands. The 
voyage from Greece to Asia, to Italy, to Sicily, and to Crete 
may be made without ever venturing more than a few leagues 
from land. If overtaken by a storm anywhere in his own seas, 
the Greek could in a very short time reach either a protected 
harbour or an island to leeward of which lie could lie in quiet 
and safety. 

In the infancy of navigation the effect of the chains of 
islands which lured the mariner from the mainland from one 

1 De Republ. ii. 4. 


to another, and offered him constant shelter and protection, 
in producing a roving and mercantile spirit, must have been 
very great. Starting from Argos, for instance, a ship could 
sail northwards to Thessaly, or crossing the isthmus, by the 
Gulf of Corinth, to Leucas and Epirus, without once reaching 
the open sea; and could pass eastwards amid a cluster of 
islands as far as Rhodes. If the west coast of Scotland were 
bright and fertile, the sea there warm and calm, and America 
only fifty miles beyond the Hebrides, then Scotland might 
resemble Greece, and it is easy to imagine how wealthy and 
powerful it would have become in the Middle Ages. In Greece 
the winter lasts but four months, and for all the rest of the 
year in the morning a breeze blows down the JEge&n from the 
north, falling towards sunset and being replaced in the night 
by a light wind from the south. 1 Therefore the sailor can rely 
on the winds to favour his course, and can calculate his times 
with nicety. 

The configuration of the Peloponnesus was compared in 
ancient times to that of a plane leaf, and in the Middle Ages 
to that of a mulberry leaf, and the comparison is apt. If a 
mulberry, a vine, or sycamore leaf be taken and laid on its face, 
the back will present a set of ridges starting from the stalk and 
ending at the points of the leaf, with valleys between the ridges. 
The highlands of northern Arcadia represent the stalk, and from 
them run five ridges, one westwards through Achaia, one east- 
wards through Argolis, and three southwards towards the three 
great southern promontories of Greece. Arcadia itself is partly 
a medley of rocks and hills strewn in Alpine profusion, and 
partly a lofty tableland surrounded by higher hills, and having 
a comparatively rigorous climate. Between the offspringing 
ranges of hills are river-valleys, fertile, rich, and warm, dotted 
in ancient times with wealthy towns, and now at last beginning 
to recover some of their ancient prosperity. 

The same formation is repeated in northern Greece. The 
great ranges of the Cambunian Mountains and of Ulyria in the 
north shut off Greece from the lands of the barbarians, and 
Pindus and its offshoots run south to the extremities of Attica 
and of Euboea, breaking off the land into small districts, each 
with its own valley, and each with its own lake or river. Thus 
it results that the whole of Greece proper may be divided into 
three sets of districts, each with different physical characters, 
and appropriate each to a different kind of life. 

1 Curtius, History of Greece, chap. i. 


The first set of districts comprises the plains about the 
mouths of streams. The largest rivers of Greece, leaving aside 
the Epirote Achelous, such as the Alpheus and Eurotas, are 
but small streams ; some of the most celebrated, as the Inachus 
and Ilissus, are but mountain torrents. The upper courses of 
these streams are straitened by the hills, but as they approach 
the sea their bed widens out, and they pass through a triangle 
of alluvial soil. In such deltas are built almost all the oldest 
great and wealthy Greek cities, Athens, Argos, Sicyon, Messene, 
and the rest. Landwards these cities only have communica- 
tions by mountain-passes or along a narrow belt of shore ; but 
their face is towards the sea, and their natural outlet in that 

The second class of districts consists of the mountain regions. 
Among these the most important are Epirus, iEtolia, Doris, 
Locri, and the greater part of Arcadia. The nature of the 
Greek highlands is determined by the character of the rocks 
of which they are composed. This is almost everywhere cal- 
careous stone ; and the consequence is the existence of a 
multitude of sharp or rounded peaks, of caves and of fissures, 
KaT(i/3o0pa, mostly natural, though in some cases made by man, 
through which rivers often flow for a considerable distance 
without reaching the surface. In ancient times the mountains 
of Greece were covered with forest, and inhabited by a numerous 
and hardy race of herdsmen and hunters. The mountain 
valleys were highly cultivated, producing abundance of corn, 
and up the sides of many of the hills may still be traced the 
artificial terraces formed for the culture of the vine. 

The third class of districts comprises the elevated inland 
plains or tablelands surrounded by mountains. This is an 
ordinary formation in Greece. The largest tableland is that of 
Thessaly, the whole surface of which is drained by the branches 
of a single river; the Pencius, which cuts through the mountain 
barrier at the vale of Tempe, and so reaches the sea. The 
greater part of Bceotia is likewise a plain encircled by moun- 
tains, as is the district of Mantinea and Tegea in Arcadia. 
These districts belong neither to the mountain nor the sea; 
they are mostly rich and fertile ; but their climate is bleaker 
and severer than that of the plains near the sea. "In March,'' 
writes Ernst Curtius, "one finds Tripolitza (Tegea) in deep 
winter, in Laconia and Argos the spring is progressing, while 
at Calamata (Messenia) a summer sun already uImws." 1 But 

1 Peloponnesos, i. 52. 


of course by winter is not to be understood a winter of snow 
and ice. 

Greece lies in a region particularly subject to the influence of 
earthquakes and volcanic action. At present there are no 
active volcanoes in the country ; but in the second century B.C. 
there was a terrible submarine eruption close to the island Thera, 
when flames rose through the sea, and a new island was thrown 
up between Thera and Therasia. In the days of Pliny these 
islands were still liable to eruptions. Earthquakes have been 
frequent in certain regions from the earliest times. Sparta 
was visited thus more than once in the course of her history. 
In B.C. 464 the houses of the town were shattered, many 
Lacedaemonians lost their lives, and Taygetus itself lost one of 
its peaks. Achaia and the Corinthian Gulf are especially in 
the track of these subterranean convulsions : the Achaian cities 
of Helice and Bum were destroyed in historic times, B.C. 372. 
Athens, on the contrary, is comparatively exempt, whence 
it results that so much of the Parthenon is still standing, 
while most of the temples in other parts of Greece have 
been completely shattered by earthquakes. Earthquakes also 
have had much to do with the deep fissures of the mountains, 
their caves and rugged edges, and have produced in many 
cases deep and narrow, or even subterranean courses for the 

The climate of Greece was praised by the ancients for its 
avoidance of the extremes both of heat and cold. This is its 
character as compared with the plains of Asia Minor or the 
highlands of Syria, which suffer from both extremes, rather 
than as compared with Western Europe. Attica is especially 
free from cold and wet, and the heat in the middle of summer 
is tempered by a charming sea-breeze. Still the present average 
of annual temperature (63.5 degrees) is rather high, according 
to our notions. About the middle of January snow falls, but 
does not lie long. It is succeeded by rains, and usually by 
the beginning of March spring is in full progress. The corn 
is cut in May, after which a few months of heat and drought 
occur. Such is now the climate of Attica. Some of the sea- 
board plains of the south, such as that of Messenia, are still 
warmer, and the air being less bright and clear than in Attica, 
the heat there is more oppressive. On the other hand the 
hilly districts and tablelands of the interior experience a very 
severe winter at times. In Arcadia and Boeotia the snow 
sometimes lies for weeks, and most of the hills of Epirus are 
capped with snow from November to March. The summer 


heat in these inland districts is also great, and not tempered 
by proximity to the sea. The wind from the north-east, Bopcas, 
is the coldest ; the north-west wind, Ze<f>vpo<;, soft and dry ; the 
south-west, Ndros, moist. The scirocco, which blows from the 
south-east, is noted for causing lassitude and depression of 

Greece is still an extremely picturesque and beautiful country. 
For those who specially admire bold outline of hill and rock, 
and distant views of mountain, sea, and island seen through 
an atmosphere of brilliant purity and sometimes tinged with 
splendid colours at sunrise and sunset, no country could be 
more admirable. The prospects are wide and varied. From 
the Rock of Corinth, Parnassus and Athens seem quite near 
to the spectator. From the moderate height of Pentelicus, 
near Athens, one can watch the shadows on the hills of Eubcea. 
At sea landmarks at a distance of twenty miles are perfectly 
clear. But in the softer and more pleasing features of land- 
scape Greece is deficient. The lakes and rivers are insignificant, 
the culture of the valleys, except near Patrae, poor. Above all 
there is a terrible want of trees on the hills. There is little 
doubt that in the early times of Greek history the country 
was well wooded ; and as a result the rainfall was much greater 
than at present, the rivers fuller, the land more fertile, and 
the climate cooler and more temperate. At the same time the 
swamps, now a constant source of malaria and fever, were kept 
drained by the industry of the inhabitants. The wasting away 
of the forests began very early. Even Plato 1 laments the 
decline of vegetation, and compares the bare hills of Greece to 
the limbs wasted by disease of a once robust body. Within 
historical times in ancient Greece the size and energy of the 
rivers greatly decreased, and plains which had once been fertile, 
like that of Mycenae, became dry and barren. Therefore we 
must not forget, in judging ancient Greece by modern, that the 
former was cooler, more rainy, and more fertile, with a richer 
vegetation, and waving forests where now there is only bare 
stone and rock. 

During the historical age only a moderate proportion of the 
Hellenes dwelt in Hellas. They were spread over all the 
shores of the Mediterranean and Euxine, and experienced all 
climates from the burning heat of Cyrene to the fogs and frosts 
of the Crimea. Throughout lower Italy, Sicily, and Asia 
Minor all the harbours and the strips of land by the sea-shore 

1 Cntias 1 1 I 13. 


were in their hands. 1 Yet we are justified in confining our 
remarks on the physical surroundings of the Greeks to Hellas. 
When the Hellenes went out to found colonies they were 
already a nation with formed manners and customs, and dis- 
position which might indeed be modified by new surroundings 
but could not be radically altered. The facile Greek could 
easily adapt himself to his neighbours, and become, while still 
retaining his cherished native tongue, half-Gaulish at Massilia, 
half-African in Cyrene, half- Scythian in Russia. But it was 
European Hellas, with the islands, and the kindred coast of 
Asia Minor alone which formed the Greek race and impressed 
upon it the characters which it was to bear for all time. In 
no Greek colony did a moral or intellectual life arise capable 
of eclipsing or rivalling that of the mother country. In popula- 
tion and wealth Tarentum and Antioch might surpass Argos 
and Athens, but could not rival them in art and literature. 

In fact in both the physical and the moral characteristics of 
the Greeks may be seen the influence of their native country. 
Their bodily frames acquired vigour from toiling up the moun- 
tains and labouring at the oar, while the genial winds and 
fostering sun gave grace and symmetry to their limbs. Their 
strength and activity were nurtured by daily gymnastic exer- 
cise, and a glow of health maintained by constant bathing 
and an open-air life. Of their physique it is fair to judge 
from their art, for although this no doubt loves the ideal, yet 
the sculptors must have found their prototypes in real life. 
All Greeks were not so happily framed, but some must have 
been; and it is hard to imagine that so splendid an ideal of 
manly and womanly beauty could have arisen in any other 
country. To this day travellers often remark on the extreme 
beauty in face and shape of young Greek peasants in certain 
districts. The peoples of the south do not eat and drink like 
those of the north, and lack their restless energy and hardy 
perseverance ; but under favourable circumstances they are 
more supple, as muscular, and as active. If we may trust 
most the later and more realistic sculptors, the ancient Greeks 
were not so much distinguished for force, though by no means 
wanting in that, as for beauty of outline and a noble propor- 
tion throughout. We know less of the forms of Greek women, 
because the statues which have come down to us preserve 
comparatively few types; and realistic statues of beautiful 

1 Cicero, Republ. ii. 4, " All the lands of the barbarians are surrounded 
by a sort of Greek fringe." 


wmiini were for obvious reasons rare. A soft and sensuous 
beauty specially distinguished the ladies of Ionia, and the 
sinewy Laconian girls must have furnished apt models for the 

statues of Artemis the huntress. 

The moral character of the race also owed much to mountains 
and to sea. The mountains, by dividing town from town and 
shutting off tribe from tribe, encouraged in them a strong love 
of independence, and a spirit to preserve it. It is ever the 
people of the hills who maintain their autonomy in the face of 
an invader to whom the plains submit. The presence of the 
sea stimulated their faculties and roused their curiosity. Every 
day brought strangers and new kinds of merchandise to then- 
shores, to furnish fresh stimulus and to prevent them from 
rusting in sloth. Their land was not rich enough to save them 
from the necessity of daily toil and exertion, yet it answered 
readily to their efforts. Their climate was gentle and genial 
enough to encourage a somewhat sensuous and pleasure-loving 
disposition, such a disposition as art and poetry love best, and 
yet not soft enough to produce enervation and luxury. In 
disposition, in temper, and stability, the Greek races differed 
much one from the other. But as a whole the people of Hellas 
surpassed all nations, ancient and modern, in one quality. This 
is the love and perception of a mean or measure in all things. 
In physical growth, intellectual pursuits, and moral conduct 
they seemed to move by a certain rhythm. The sense of mea- 
sure marks their philosophy, their poetry, and their art, and 
there can be no doubt that the more of measure that Ave dis- 
cover in their religion, their thought, and their private life, the 
nearer we shall be to understanding them. 

To the above-mentioned threefold division of the physical 
surface of Greece correspond the classes of its inhabitants. We 
might divide these by races into Dorian, Ionian, and iEolian. 
But far deeper than the distinctions of race lie those produced 
by life and employment. When the Dorians settled at a 
maritime city like Sicyon or iEgina, they soon came to re- 
semble the Ionians in manners and external character, only 
preserving some remains of their gravity and staidness of 
demeanour. The term /Eolians, too, includes races differing 
one from the other so much as the Boeotians and the iEtolians. 
We shall therefore prefer the division which was recognised in 
Attica in Solon's time, and divide Greeks into three classes, as 
inhabitants of the mountains, the shore, and the plains. To 
the end the peoples of the mountains remained comparatively 
rude and therefore simple, retaining the virtues and the vices 


of semi-barbarians. In the later times of Greece they became 
mercenaries in troops, like the Swiss in the Middle Ages. In 
earlier times they composed the armies which marched under 
the headship of Sparta. Sparta, though situated in a river- 
valley, was yet the head of the hill tribes. Its manners and 
customs all bespeak an origin among rude herdsmen and 
hunters. The conservatism of Sparta corresponds to the stag- 
nation of the clans living in remote mountain glens, on whom 
the course of Greek development had no effect, who knew 
nothing of arts, or letters, or commerce. In Arcadia the 
primitive, even the pre-Hellenic religions of Greece found a 
dwelling-place. It was the land of nymphs and river-gods, of 
Pan and his rout, of the herdsman's god Hermes. Supersti- 
tions of all kinds sheltered themselves among its hills. The 
people of iEtolia never, until the Roman conquest, gave up 
their predatory and piratical habits. Like the Highland clans 
of Scotland some centuries ago, they lived by the plunder 
which they amassed in incursions into neighbouring lands. All 
the cities near had to pay them tribute. The Epirotes, who 
may fairly be considered as Greeks by blood, long maintained 
a rugged independence under native chiefs, who were little 
more than leaders in war. 

It was in the cities of the shore and the islands that all that 
we think of as specially Hellenic in art, philosophy, and literature 
developed. Yet Greece could not have spared her rude moun- 
taineers. As the mountains formed a backbone to the land, so 
the mountaineers formed a backbone to the race. But for the 
Arcadian and the Dorian, the fate of Miletus would have over- 
taken Athens. As in modern England so in Greece there was 
a constant overflow from the country to the cities ; and when a 
new colony was planned or an expedition undertaken, many of 
the recruits came from the hills. The Greek of the shore and 
the sea was more quick-witted and active than the mountaineer, 
with far more understanding, taste, and refinement, but with a 
certain tendency towards idleness and gossiping, and towards 
overreaching. In modern Greece these vices are very widely 
spread ; but one may still get beyond them after a day's march 
into the hills of the interior. 

In the plains and tablelands there was space for a wider 
division between rich and poor than among the mountains or 
in trading cities. This was especially the case in Thessaly, 
where a chivalrous aristocracy possessed the soil and oppressed 
its cultivators. This wealthy class was given to horse-riding 
and gymnastics, and possessed the usual virtues of slaveholders, 


while the poor, the Penestae, acquired the vices of slaves. In 
Boeotia the people were noted for their gross feeding and 
gluttony, which was a consequence of the richness of their 
soil, and reacted upon their brains, which were duller than 
those of their neighbours. Other plains of Greece were small ; 
but their tendency, as far as it went, was towards producing 
social inequalities and aristocratical government. In Attica, in 
the time of Solon, the Pedisei were devoted to aristocracy, and 
the flatter countries were the strongholds of oligarchical insti- 
tutions. Even the rich valleys of JLaconia and Messenia were 
in later times full of the large properties of a few wealthy pro- 
prietors. But the only aristocracies which encouraged literature 
and art were those of the great cities. 

As the special home of culture, Athens needs a few separate 
remarks. Whatever might be the case with the Piraeus, Athens 
itself was by no means exclusively a city of the sea. The 
Athenian territory comprised all Attica, a district greater than 
that of any other city of Hellas, except Sparta. Attica consists 
of an agreeable mixture of hills and plains. In the latter, barley, 
the olive, and the fig flourished abundantly, though the soil was 
somewhat poor and needed careful tilling. Parnes and Pente- 
licus afforded good pasturage for sheep and goats, and Hymettus 
fed innumerable bees. In early Athenian times each wealthy 
citizen spent much of his time at his country house : it was not 
until the Peloponnesians had made themselves masters of the 
country that all Athenians were cooped up in the city and 
became a purely urban population. And the Athenians them- 
selves were ready to acknowledge their debt to the climate of 
their district. The air of Athens is the driest and brightest in 
Greece ; and the ancients used to say that the wits of the people 
partook of the character of their air, while on the other hand 
the fogs and mists* of Boeotia x tended to induce, no less than 
their rustic plenty and habits of gluttony, stupidity in the 
Boeotian population. It is not fanciful to connect with this 
clearness of air the keenness of sense which the Athenians 
enjoyed, and the finish which that keenness of sense caused 
them to cultivate in their works of plastic art, temples, and 
pictures, and in their music and acting. And the fine taste 
which accompanies fine sense they exercised in other fields, 
oratory, philosophy, and poetry; while the keenness of wit 
which was native to them made them quick in discovery and 
ever ready to imbibe new ideas. 

1 So in Pindar, Boitorta Ss, 01. vi. 153. 




Scattered as they were through all lands, from the banks of 
the Indus to the coast of Spain, and from the Crimea to the 
deserts of Africa, men of Greek race must have experienced all 
climates, and changed, in accordance with their material sur- 
roundings, many of their customs. But wherever they dwelt 
out of Hellas proper, one feature specially distinguished them, 
that they dwelt in cities ; and about the city all their life 
grouped itself. Alexander the Great's plan for holding the 
East rested entirely on the frequent foundation of Greek cities, 
and to this day there is an irresistible tendency among those 
of Greek race to flock into towns and leave the life of the 
country to duller races. 

But of course, though to us the Greeks appear as a race of 
citizens, their cities were gradually evolved out of earlier forms. 
The city resulted from a combination of villages, Kufiai, and if 
it fell into the hands of its enemies, was broken up into villages 
again. The history of Mantineia is in this respect specially 
interesting. When the Spartans conquered Mantineia, 1 they 
destroyed the wall, and compelled the people to separate into 
their original villages ; and it was not until the victories of 
Epaminondas that the wall of Mantineia was again built to 
enclose the inhabitants. So Athens, as Thucydides tells us, 2 
sprang from an amalgamation of early hamlets, in the time and 
under the influence of Theseus. 

Greece is a land of hills ; and whenever the traveller in 
Greece sees before him a detached hill advancing from the 
main range into one of the little plains which open on to the 
sea, he is at once almost sure that he is looking on the site of 
an early city. On such eminences, at some distance from the 
shore for security from pirates, yet not out of reach of it, and 
surrounded by a plain, were situate Athens, Argos, Corinth, 
Mycenae, and almost all the cities which were early great. 

Recent excavations have enabled us clearly to 'trace in the 
case of acropolis hills of early cities, such as Athens, Mycenae, 
and Tiryns, three uses in three successive ages. 3 In the earliest 

1 Ilellen. v. 2, 4. 2 ii. 15. 

3 See, among other works, Botticher's Akropolis von Athen, Schliemann'a 
Tiryns, &c. 


period which wo can discover they were roughly walled in and 
covered with small cabins, mere village-fastnesses, whither the 
dwellers in the plains around could flee in case of invasion or 
attack by pirates. Some early graves cut in the rock belong 
to this stage. Next we find them surrounded by far more care- 
fully made and elaborate walls, and occupied by the splendid 
palaces of races of wealthy rulers, of which palaces that un- 
earthed at Tiryns may best give us a notion. It was thus that 
acropolis-rocks were used by the lines of kings of whom we 
hear in legend, and of whom the Homeric poems are full. In 
the third period, which belongs to recorded history, the heights 
are used no longer for the dwellings of men but for the temples 
of I he deities of the state, as well as, in the last resort, 
fortified posts whence tyrants might control the cities around, 
or from the walls of which the citizens might repel the attacks 
of the enemy. 

With the growth of security and population the cities spread 
downwards ; an agora and a town were formed at the foot or 
on the lower slopes of the hill, the top of which remained fort- 
fied and the seat of ancient religious cults. 1 At the nearest 
point of the coast a small harbour-town was formed, a sort of 
marine suburb of the mother city. Thus Athens had Piraeus ; 
Corinth, Lechaeum and Cenchreae; Argos, Nauplia; and Megara, 
Mssea. At a later time long walls 2 were in many cases built 
from city to harbour, in order to prevent an enemy from cutting 
off the one from the other ; but this did not take place until 
after the Persian wars. The circumstances under which those 
of Athens were built are notorious. Some part of their course 
may even yet be traced When in and after the ninth 
century B.C. the Greeks began to found colonies, they often 
chose sites in foreign lands close to the sea-shore or on the 
banks of a great river, as suited the interests of trade ; and 
commercial cities so founded always looked back with the 
utmost veneration to the rock where stood the oldest shrines 
of their mother city. 

Of the cities of the times of Homer we have to judge partly 
from the terms in which he speaks of them, partly from the 
facts revealed in the recent disinterment of Mycenae. The 
most frequent phrase of Homer in reference to cities is cvktl- 
fxevov -TrToXUOpov, well built, on which phrase the admirably 

1 See Time. ii. 15, for a full account of this process in the case of 

2 For representations of Greek walls and gates, see Schreitx-r's Bilderallas, 
pi. xlviii.-l. 


preserved walls of Tiryns and Mycenae, walls of massive Cyclo- 
pean construction, form the best commentary. What is above 
said as to the position of early cities is confirmed by Homer's 
occasional application to them of the term ^ve/toets, windy. The 
use of other Homeric epithets seems less appropriate. When 
he calls a city evpy^opos and evpvdyvia, broad-spaced and broad- 
streeted, we must allow a considerable margin for poetic and 
imaginative fervour, for in ancient as in modern cities the 
oldest streets were almost always the most narrow and irregular. 
So, too, when Homer calls a city populous, evvaio pcvov, 1 we 
must understand the phrase in connection with the usual size 
of early cities, and suppose that the poet meant to contrast it 
with a mere open village. This Homer shows himself, for 
when he distinguishes a group of Argive cities, he does so not 
by any characteristic belonging to their importance or position in 
commerce, but by the circumstances of their position and terri- 
tory. Thus Ira is grassy, 7roMJeo-o-a, 2 Antheia deep-meadowed, 
/3advX€t[xos, Pedasus and Pyrasus are flowery, Epidaurus vine- 
clad, and so forth. Such language shows how much in its 
infancy was the pushing, restless, trading city-life of later 
Greece. Nevertheless, in his mention of the agora, he shows 
us the germs of that life. 

As time went on and commerce increased in the Greek cities, 
many of the functions for which the agora had served were 
carried on in more convenient and sheltered places. First the 
administration of justice was removed. Next went the meetings 
of political and deliberative assemblies, though these lingered 
longer in democratic than in aristocratic communities. 3 Even 
at Athens the Ecclesia was transferred from the agora to the 
Pnyx, and later to the Theatre of Dionysus. By degreee the 
agora was appropriated to commerce and social union. 

Pausanias 4 distinguishes two kinds of agora, the old, and the 
Ionian or new. The former was more rambling and scattered, 
and the streets went through, not merely to it. The latter was 
square or oblong, surrounded by continuous arcades; often even 
completely enclosed by arcades and doors. In the later Greek 
foundations the market-place was of immense size. Thus at 
Syracuse a large number of troops under Dion encamped in the 

1 The word euua.i6fjt.evov may, however, mean well situate or well built. 

2 II. ix. 150. 

3 At the same time the word dyopd ceased to be used of the assembled 
people as well as the place. C|>., however, iEsch. in Ct^s. 27 : ayop&v 
iroirjacu tQiv <pu\u>v. The verb ayopeveiv bore testimony to the old use. 

4 vi. 24. 


agora, 1 and when, in Timoleon's time, the population of the 
city had fallen off, cattle could pasture on the grass which grew 
there in places. 2 The arcades also gained in stateliness, trees 
were planted for the convenience of loungers, and fountains 
built, and the whole place rendered attractive. 3 In the neigh- 
bourhood of the agora of most cities were the great temples, 
especially those of local heroes ; here statues were erected in 
vast quantities, and here the /3ovkevTijpLov and other public 
offices were to be found. Through the arcades, o-roou, and at 
the feet of the statues, were crowded the stalls of the vendors 
of all kinds of commodities, a particular part of the area being 
appropriated to the sale of each class of ware. These separate 
divisions and districts were named from the articles sold in 
each, such name being sometimes singular in form and some- 
times plural ; each was full of o-ktjvcu, or booths, divided one 
from another with wicker crates, yeppa, 4 which seem to have 
been permanent or only cleared away in case of necessity. The 
most important of all the markets to Athenian tastes was the 
iX#Gs, 01 fish-market ; next to it came the yyrpai, or crockery- 
market, the wine-market, and the slave-market. One region 
was called the yvi/aijccta dyopd, 5 a phrase which has caused 
much controversy in modern times, chiefly because it is known 
that women did not frequent the market as purchasers. Some 
think that in the yvvatKeta dyopd specially womanly articles, 
such as paint and perfumes, were sold ; some think that the 
sellers there were women, who certainly did sometimes act in 
that capacity ; and some think that women stood there for hire. 
Some special articles were not only sold in the agora, but taken 
also round to the houses by women ; thus bread was dispensed 
by the apTOTrioAiSes, and ribbons by a TouvtoVwAis. No doubt 
when the agora was full the noise and confusion were distract- 
ing ; sellers calling their wares, purchasers cheapening goods, 
and the dyopavofxot wandering about to detect false weights ami 
settle the many disputes which were sure to arise. Also the 
agora was frequented by all who sought publicity — the masters 
of the Socratic elenchus, rhapsodists, poets who wanted to recite 
their verses, and musicians whose art claimed recognition. Pro- 
bably to most of the latter classes the bell which announced the 
opening of the fish-market, ringing at a fixed time every day, 

1 Diod. xx i. 10. Cp. Cic. Yerr. iv. c. 53. 
- Plut. Timol. 22. 

3 So by Ciinon at Athens. Plut. Cimon, 13. 

4 Demosth. de Cor. § 169. 

5 Theophr. Char. 2 ; Pollux, x. 18. 


was a formidable rival. While it was considered churlish for 
a man entirely to absent himself from places of public resort, 
yet the ordinary Athenian gentleman would not spend too 
much of his time in the agora. Loungers, dyopaiot, had a bad 

At Athens the principal market was in the inner Ceramicus. 1 
On one side of it was the /SWtAeios o-roa, so named from the 
King Archon who sat there, near which were portrait-statues 
of Timotheus, Conon, and Evagoras, the Cyprian king, together 
with an image of Zeus Eleutherius. By these was the stoa, 
containing pictures of the twelve great gods, also of Theseus, 
Demos, and Democracy, and of the battle of Mantinea, in 
which the Athenians fought on the Spartan side. Next stood 
a temple of Apollo Patroiis, and one of the Mother of the Gods, 
and close by the Senate-house of the five hundred. Further 
on was the Tholus where the Prytanes sacrificed, and the 
statues of the Athenian eponymous tribal heroes, on the basis 
of which the official notices of the government were posted. 
Besides these might be mentioned the temples of Hephaestus 
and Aphrodite Urania and Pandemos, together with the stoa 
called Pcecile, containing the pictured battles of the Athenians, 
the altar of Pity, and many other erections. The whole market- 
place was a vast museum of splendid works of art, as indeed 
are those of all the cities described by Pausanias. By a strange 
contrast in the open space in the midst of the agora camped 
the Scythian to£otcu, the policemen who kept order in the 
Athenian assemblies. Athens had other smaller markets be- 
sides that of the Ceramicus, for instance, a corn-market, o-roa 
aA</HT6Va>Ais, built by Pericles. 2 In addition Piraeus had two 
markets, one close to the sea and one further inland. 

A very appropriate adornment of one of these lesser Athenian 
markets was the building now often called the Tower of the 
Winds, but more properly the Clepsydra of Andronicus of 
Cyrrhus. We may suppose such buildings to have been in 
Hellenistic times very usually erected by wealthy citizens for 
the public use. It is adapted for several purposes. First, it 
is a clepsydra or water-clock. The grooves in the stone by which 
the water ran still remain. Sundials, ttoXol or yvw/xoves, are 
carefully marked out on its flat sides. It is octagonal, and on 
each side is an appropriate relief representing the particular wind 
which blew from the quarter towards which it is turned. On 
the top a bronze Triton turned with the breeze, and indicated 

1 Pausan. i. 3. 2 Aristoph. Eccles. 686. 


with a staff which wind was blowing. Thus the building 
answered the double purpose of a town-clock and a weather- 
cock. Representations of it are given in many modern books, 
such as that of Guhl and Koner. 

In Sparta in early times the agora was kept free of buildings 
and adornment, the great legislator Lycurgus fearing that these 
would divert the attention of the people from business, or 
perhaps not wishing to make the place too attractive. But 
after the Persian wars the Spartans erected on the later market- 
place from Persian spoils a stately series of arcades, where were 
the offices of government. Of the other noble market-places of 
Greece, such as those of Argos, Corinth, and Magalopolis, com- 
plete descriptions are given by Pausanias the traveller. 

One noteworthy feature of many agoras was the inclusion in 
them of a tomb or a shrine of the founder, real or mythical. 
Thus in the agora of Patrae was the grave of Patreus, in that 
of Cyrene the grave of Battus ; and in the agora of Elsea in 
Mysia was a stone on which the people sacrificed to Thersander. 1 

Athens being the most important of Greek cities, and at the 
same time one of the best preserved, it will be advisable to give 
a few other details as to its plan. As the Agora was the centre 
of the commercial and social life of Athens, so the Acropolis 
was the centre of the religious and the Pnyx of the political 
life. The Acropolis rises abruptly from the plain. The extreme 
dimensions of the rock on which it is built are at the summit 
about noo feet by 450. The height above the level of the 
city is nearly 300 feet. Inside the walls of the Acropolis stood 
the Parthenon and Erechtheum and the colossal standing figure 
of Athena. The approach from the city, which has been traced 
by means of the excavations of Beule, passed through the 
magnificent Propylsea of Pericles, works of the highest archi- 
tectural beauty, full of the paintings of great masters, and 
commanding a grand view of hills and sea. Close under the 
lofty walls of the Acropolis is a cluster of public buildings — the 
Theatre of Dionysus, where the plays of the great tragedians 
were continually acted ; the Odeum of marble erected in the 
time of the Antonines by Herodes Atticus ; the Temple of 
Asklepius, which was practically the great hospital of Athens, 
and other buildings. Close to the Acropolis, on the north-west, 
is the rugged rock called the Hill of Ares, 'Apdos 7rayos, the 
Mars' Hill of the New Testament, where met in old days the 
court of the Areopagus, up which one may still climb by the 

1 Pausan. vii. 20, 5 ; Pindar, Pyth. v. 87 ; Pausan. ix. 5, 14. 


rough stone staircase used in ancient times, and whence one 
may look down into the gloomy cleft sacred to the Erinnyes. 
A little beyond this hill lies another, on the summit of which 
is an enclosure of horse-shoe form, and in the midst an altar of 
Zeus Hypatus. Formerly this spot was taken for the Pnyx, 
but Curtius and other modern writers have rejected this view. 
About the foot of these hills, to the north and west of the 
Acropolis, clustered thickest the houses of the Athenian people, 
an open space here and there marking the site where stood a 
temple or other public building. 

Proceeding in the opposite direction, towards the east, from 
the Acropolis would be passed first the re/xevos of Zeus, where 
the splendid Temple of Hadrian, of which the remains are 
still stately, afterwards stood, and then the bed of the Ilissus, 
which might usually be passed in summer dry-shod. 1 Beyond 
was the Panathenaic stadium, which hides, after the manner of 
stadia, its head in the hills, and which was rebuilt in white marble 
by Herodes Atticus. It was necessary to pass outside the walls 
of Athens to reach the Academy, the Lyceum, the Cynosarges, 
and the other great gymnasia where the Athenian youth 
exercised themselves. 

The streets of the older Greek cities were mostly narrow and 
crooked. At Athens the despot Hippias found it necessary to 
impose a tax on the owners of houses whose doors opened out- 
wards, or whose upper story projected beyond the lower. 2 
After his expulsion the Areopagus passed regulations on the 
subject, and inflicted fines for transgressions. Pavements, such 
as those of the Pompeian streets, were very unusual in Greece 
before the Roman times, and lighting of streets was unknown. 
Torches, 8£Ses or AajuwraSes, were carried by all who went 
abroad, unless the moon happened to be very bright. 3 Aristo- 
phanes in the Wasps 4 gives us an amusing description of a 
party of men picking their way through the unpaved streets at 
night with the help of a lantern, and in great fear of mischance. 
The mud through which these worthies wade is deep, although 
the weather seems from the context to be dry. We find 
frequent allusions in the comedians to the dirt of the streets 
and open places, in which no doubt the inhabitants piled their 
refuse of all kinds, trusting that the scavengers would take it 
away. 5 If we add that the Athenian houses, and all buildings 

1 Plato, Phmdrux, 229 A. 2 Arist. CEconom. ii. 5. 

:! Avist. Clouds, I. 614, fir) irpia), irai, 5£5' iireidri <f)u)S HeXrjvairjs KaXou. 
4 Lines 245 sqq. 

D Thucydidcs says of the streets of Platteae, h cfkot^ ko.1 irrjXuj (ii. 4). 




except those belonging to the State or the gods, were built of 
wood and unburned brick, 1 though sometimes coated with fine 
plaster, /covia/za, and presented to the narrow street a dead wall, 
only sometimes varied with device or decoration, and with very- 
small breaks for windows, we shall destroy the notion that the 
Athenian streets were stately and attractive, whatever the open 
spaces may have been. In fact, the crowding of the country- 

Fio 2. — A Street tn Powpeti. (Ovf.rbeck. Pompeii, p. 233.) 

folk into Athens at the time of the Peloponnesian war pre- 
vented the rich burghers from building tine houses, as they 
otherwise might have done had fresh space been available. 
And for this reason the private houses of Athens were, until 
a late period, less splendid than those of other cities. But 

1 Whence the phrase for housebreaking, roixupvxtiv , to dig through 
walls of houses a.s did the Plataeans. Thuc. ii. 3. So Plut. Dem. ii., tous 
Toi\ov^ wTjXipovs Zx ^*- 


fine houses doubtless arose in the suburbs in later times. 
The narrowness of the streets of Argos was fatal to Pyrrhns 
when he forced his way into the city. But the streets through 
which processions passed must have been broader and more 
imposing. Thus the street of the Tripods, wherein were set up 
the tripods won by Athenians in musical and other contests, 
and the street of the Hermae 1 at Athens were wider and adorned 
with many fine monuments. These contained the better houses. 
Many streets were appropriated to the dealers in particular 
articles ; for instance, the KifiuToiroioi (boxmakers) and the 
€pfioy\v(f>ai at Athens had streets named after them. In front 
of most of the houses stood rude pillar-like figures of Apollo 
'Ayvtevs, and often also of Hecate. Little shrines of these and 
other deities were of frequent recurrence. 

Hippodamus of Miletus 2 was the first to introduce regularity 
into town building. This architect laid out the Piraeus and 
the new cities of Thurii in Italy and Rhodes. Dinocrates, 
following in his footsteps, constructed Alexandria on most 
methodical plans. These cities were laid out with wide streets 
at right angles one to the other, and had many open spaces. 
Temples were erected in them, not on spots hallowed by 
legend, but where they would show best and be most acces- 
sible. Large stoae and gymnasia adorned the most frequented 
streets. The streets of Alexandria in particular were really 
fine ; we are told that one stretched uninterrupted from the 
western to the eastern gate, a distance of thirty stades, or more 
than a league, and had a breadth of more than a hundred feet. 
The houses of the same city were all built of stone or brick, 
and never of wood, which was in older cities a common 
material. Some of these houses rose to a height of three 
storeys, and from their flat roofs a good view over the city 
might be obtained. In the same city a great feature was the 
Royal Palace of the Ptolemies, which occupied from a fifth to 
a third of the entire area of the town, and included, together 
with endless halls and apartments, the Museum with all its 
literary treasures. The places above mentioned being maritime, 
the builders of them bestowed on their docks and arsenals 
great labour and expense. Moles were built to protect their 
harbours from injury, and on the island of Pharos at Alex- 

1 The Hermpc were not, however, confined to this street, but to be found 
in all parts of the city. On these Hermae Hipparchus engraved moral 
saws. Plato, Hipparch. 228. 

2 Arist. Pol. ii. 5. For fuller information on these matters see Krause's 


andria was erected the great lighthouse which has ever since 
been renowned. 

Some of the cities built by the successors of Alexander in 
Asia were constructed most methodically, and included refine- 
ments quite new in the history of civic architecture. Thus of 
the city of Nicsea, built by Lysimachus, it was said that you 
could stand by a stone in the agora and look through the four 
principal gates of the city, which were turned to the four points 
of the compass. At Antioch on the Orontes there were pillared 
arcades on each side of the principal streets, so that a man 
might go on wet days dry-shod for mile after mile. Close to 
the same city was the park of Daphne, a place where all that 
was beautiful in nature was cultivated in profusion. Older 
towns had their trim olive and myrtle groves, but this was the 
first city to possess something like what we should call a park. 

The suburbs of ancient as of modern cities were more loosely 
built, with spaces between the houses, gardens, and open places. 
In the immediate vicinity of the principal city gates, outside 
them, the roads were flanked with rows of handsome marble 
monuments erected over the dead. But these were not of a 
character to cause depression and melancholy, rather calculated, 
on the other hand, to please and refresh by the beauty of their 
designs and reliefs. Frequently on the outskirts of a town was 
the temple of some popular deity, with its spaces and groves, 
and a little town of the ministrants to the temple. Thus in 
the suburb of Corinth called Craneion was situate the great 
temple of Aphrodite, which was the centre of the dissolute 
life of the place, as the agora was of the commercial life. We 
can better understand the life and character of Diogenes the 
Cynic if we reflect that it was here that his cask was placed 
during part of his life. 

These suburban temples were in some cases the seats of 
games. Then they were surrounded by an extensive re/xevos, 
which included a stadium, a theatre, the shrines of inferior 
deities and daemons, and a number of statues set up by grateful 
cities or by winners at the games. There were also, in the 
case of the great centres of worship, treasuries belonging to 
various cities and states specially erected to contain their votive 
offerings. Around the Ttfxtvos at the time of the solemn festival 
were set up the tents and huts of thousands of visitors from all 
parts of Greece, and the booths of those who frequented such 
places of assembly with goods for sale. The whole neighbour- 
hood bore for the time the appearance of a fair, and sacrifices, 
processions, and feasts crowded one another all day. 


The water supply of the Greeks was rendered easier from 
the fact that Greece is a land of springs and streams, and it was 
seldom necessary to bring a supply from a distance by canals 
or aqueducts. When such necessity was imposed the Greeks 
did not raise their watercourses in Roman fashion on arches 
striding imperially over the valleys, but made the best use of 
existing slopes and gradients. 1 At the city end of an aqueduct, 
or over a city spring, was almost always erected a stately grotto, 
with marble pillars and steps. Hither in the morning would 
flock the girls with their water-pots, as we see them flocking 
in the paintings on those very hydriae which they carried, 
many of which are preserved in modern museums. Often the 
spring was without the walls, in which case the water-carriers 
had often to dread an ambush of an enemy in its neighbour- 

In the numerous public buildings of Greece — the gymnasia, 
the baths, the Government buildings, the innumerable halls 
and arcades — the men passed the greater part of their time. 
It must never be forgotten that during the great time of Greece 
these were the real dwelling-place of the freeman. The private 
houses were quite of secondary importance, the men only 
retired to them to eat and to sleep ; all their energies centred 
about the market-place, the council-hall, the gymnasium, and 
the theatre. It was not until the decline of Greece had set 
in that the private buildings at all rivalled the public ones in 



The plan and arrangement of houses in the Homeric age is a 
subject which has of late years roused a good deal of interest, 
and called forth several dissertations. 2 Such of these as were 
written before the discovery of the ancient palaces on the 
acropolis hills of Tiryns and Mycenae are necessarily out of 
date, since it is indubitable that this discovery has given us 
important datn. On the other hand, it is a mistake to recon- 

1 Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, iv. 377. 

2 A list of these at p. 170 of vol. vii. of the Joum. Hell. Stud. See 
also my chap. iv. in New Chapters in Greek History; Bie in JaJirbuch des 
Arch. Inst. 1891, p. I ; Lange, Haus und Halle, 1885 ; andJoseph, Paldste 
des Homerischen Epos, 1893. 


struct the Homeric palace entirely on the basis offered by 
remains of the Greek heroic age, since it appears certain that 
there was a considerable gap in time between the civilisation 
revealed by the spade in Argolis, and that reflected in the 
poems of Homer. The plan we propose to follow is to take 
our start from the Homeric poems, but to welcome any light 
which may be gained from the comparison of the palaces at 
Mycenae and Tiryns. 

The houses of Homeric chiefs consisted of three parts, ccuAtj, 
Seo/za or fieyapov, and OaXa^os, 1 of which the first was the 
front court, the second the hall of the men, the third the 
apartments of the women. All these parts will be reviewed 
in order. All were enclosed by a massive stone wall, doubtless 
of Cyclopean construction. 

As one approached the house this wall would be most con- 
spicuous, with the roof of the buildings within it showing over 
the top. Vivid are the words in which Odysseus as he ap- 
proaches his own house describes it to Eumseus, " There is 
building beyond building, and the court is furnished with wall 
and battlements, and there are solid twofold doors; no man 
might scorn it." 2 This wall was for defence rather than any 
other purpose. It was pierced only at one point and at that 
defended by massive folding- doors, 0vpai Si/cAiSes. Outside 
the wall, on either side the doors, were stone seats, efyxxt, which 
seem to have commanded a wide prospect, for the wooers sit 
there and see the ship of Telemachus sail into harbour. 3 

Passing through the solid doors the traveller would find 
himself in an open courtyard, av\.rj. In front of him would 
lie the lofty hall, and around him arcades or cloisters, partly 
divided into small cells and chambers. Of these chambers 
some served as farm buildings, as houses for the mills, 4 and as 
places for the storage of provisions, some as bed-rooms for male 
slaves. One or two of the better ones were even used as 
chambers for unmarried sons of the house : Telemachus, for 
instance, certainly slept in the av\r). b The court was probably 
in as dirty a condition as our farmyards. Eumseus, when he 
brought boars for the feeding of the suitors, let them feed at 
large in the court, 6 probably on the refuse there lying about. 
In one corner of the court was the mysterious 66\os which has 

1 II. vi. 3 1 3, o'i oi eiroii)<rav daXafMov nal duifxa km avXrjv. 

2 Od. xvii. 266. 3 Od. xvi. 343. Cf. iii. 406. 

4 Od. xx. 105. Odysseus, as he lies in the aWovaa, hears the women, as 
they grind at the mills, complaining. 

5 Od. xix. 48. 6 Od. xx. 164. 


caused so much discussion. That it was not a kitchen is pro- 
bable ; for we read that food was cooked in the Megaron itself. 
Nor was it a treasury ; the treasury of the house certainly lay 
in the women's quarters. It was circular ; this the name 
implies ; and from the analogy of the circular buildings still 
remaining at Orchomenus and Mycenae we might conjecture 
that it may have been a family burial-place. In early times 
the custom of burying on the premises prevailed with several 
branches of the Indo-European race. 1 This however is a con- 
jecture which it is impossible to verify in the present state of 
knowledge. In the court was the altar of Zeus, 'EpKeios, the 
" well-wrought altar of the great Zeus of the Court," 2 as it is 

On all four sides of the court, then, were cloisters called by 
the general name afflovo-a, a portico supported by pillars. This 
covered space, which was probably also paved, was used for 
a variety of purposes. Here animals such as goats 3 and oxen 
brought for household use were tethered ; and here were some- 
times spread rough shake-downs for less distinguished guests to 
sleep on. Odysseus, while an unhonoured guest in his own 
house, slept in the afflovo-a* spreading on the ground a bull's 
hide and over that the fleeces of sheep. So Telemachus when 
a guest at Sparta slept in the 7r/3oSo/xos. 5 In this case it is 
previously stated that Helen had ordered coverlets to be placed 
for him vk aWovo-r), so that it would appear that the space be- 
fore the doors was part of the afflovo-a. The usual epithet 
of Homer for the afflovo-a is ZpiSoviros, 6 echoing. If it had a 
pavement and a roof supported on pillars, it would richly 
merit this epithet. 

Through the irp68ofxo<s or afflovcra a visitor would reach the 
great doors opening into the [xeyapov, the public hall where 
in Homeric days the chiefs lived among their friends and 
retainers in a public life closely resembling that of Scandinavian 
chiefs and mediaeval barons. Of the doors themselves we may 
form a clear notion from Homer's description of those in the 
palace of Alcinous, 7 which are indeed described as made of gold 
and silver but were no doubt in form like other doors. They 
were folding, and supported on either side by a solid o-raOfxos 
or door-post. The doors were not suspended on hinges, but 
turned in sockets ; such at least is the construction found in 

1 Marquardt, Rom. Privatalterthiimer, p. 350. 
- Od. xxii. 334. ;{ Od. xx. 189. 

4 Od. xx. 1. 5 Od. iv. 302. 

G Od. xx. 189. 7 Od. vii. 88. 


early Greek doorways such as those at Mycenae. Over them 
was a virepdvpiov or cornice, and on them handles of metal. 1 
They were secured by wooden bolts, or could in some cases 
be unlocked from outside by a key like that used by Penelope, 
with ivory handle and bronze teeth. 2 

At either end of the hall was a door, of which doors one led 
into the outer court, the other into the women's apartments, 
the OdXafjios. In front of both doors was a long and pro- 
bably raised threshold or ovSos. The threshold in front of the 
door into the court was made of ash wood, /xeAivos ovSos ; 3 that 
in front of the women's door was of stone, Xd'ivos ov86<s : a 
distinction which the reader of the Odyssey must keep in mind. 
When Odysseus arrives as a beggar, he takes his modest place 
on the ashen threshold, and it is afterwards, when thoughts of 
vengeance are thickening in his mind, that Telemachus calls 
him up to a higher and more honourable place and gives him 
a seat near the threshold of stone. By the ashen threshold, 
against one of the pillars of the hall, was the SovpoSoK-q or spear- 
stand, where guests who entered the house left their spears 
behind them, 4 and even the master of the house kept his 
spears standing. 

The height of the fieyapov was that of the house itself, and 
its size so great that all the suitors of Penelope could live and 
feed in it. The roof was supported by pillars which probably 
stood in rows and divided the hall into three aisles or corridors. 
These pillars are mentioned in one of the most picturesque 
passages of the Odyssey, where Pallas spreads a light through 
the hall and Telemachus exclaims, 5 "A wondrous sight, my 
father, meets my eyes. Meseems that the walls of the hall 
and the fair main beams, and the rafters of pine, and the 
pillars that sustain them, are bright to my eyes as if with 
flaming fire." In this passage, too, occurs the term /aco-oS/aou, 
which has greatly puzzled commentators, but which seems in 
the light of recent discovery to signify the main beams of a 
house. 6 

The Zo-xdpa or hearth, where was done the cooking of the 
house, was situate in the midst of the hall. The smoke aris- 
ing from it wreathed about the hall, 7 blackening the beams 
and the arms hung on the walls, and finally making its escape 
through the roof. Openings in the roof are not indeed men- 

1 Od. vii. 88. 2 Od. xxi. 7. 3 Od xvii. 339. 

4 Od. i. 128; xvii. 29. 5 Od. xix. 37. 

6 See an inscription from Eleusis. Ephmieris Arch. 1883, p. 3. 

7 Od. xvi. 28S. 


tioned in Homer, but we are driven to assume their existence, 
for how else could smoke leave and light enter the apartment? 
Moreover we know that a hypaethral opening belongs to the 
earliest form of Graeco-Roman house 1 and was the precursor 
alike of the Roman atrium and the Greek peristyle. We may 
gather from a story told by Herodotus 2 that it existed in early 
Greek houses, such as those of kings of Macedon, and that the 
sunlight fell through it in a square patch on to the floor. 
Perhaps in the Palace of Odysseus, as in that at Tiryns, the 
central part of the roof was raised, with openings at the sides, 
as in basilicas. 

The fieyapov was by no means inaccessible to the women- 
folk of the household. They did not indeed eat there with 
the men, but they were frequent spectators of their eating 
and amusements. The maid-servants of Penelope not only 
clean and sprinkle the hall, 3 wiping the tables with sponges 
and removing the fragments of broken food from the floor, 
but also take special charge of the braziers intended alike 
for the warming and the lighting of the room, even staying 
in the hall far into the night to replenish them with fuel. 
Even the lady of the house and her daughters sometimes enter 
the hall. Penelope is sitting in the hall while her white- 
armed attendants go through the cleansing process already 
mentioned : and when the wooers are feasting she comes ac- 
companied by two of her handmaids from her chamber, and 
stands, with her glistening peplos wrapped about her face, by 
the inner door of the hall, 7ra/xx o-Tadfxbv reyeos, 4 close to one 
of the main pillars. Hence she addresses Antinous, and here 
she sits spinning while Telemachus and Piraeus feed together. 5 
Even when Odysseus is in the hall bathed with warm water 
and anointed with oil by old Euryclea, Penelope is present, 6 
sitting near the ecr^apa or stove, but discreetly turning her 
head in another direction. 

It has been supposed by some writers that the /xv^os was a 
definite part of the Homeric hall, just as the ala was of Roman 
houses, that part in fact which lay immediately in front of the 
door into the women's apartments. But it appears to me, on 
the collation of a number of passages in which the term fiv^os 
occurs, that it means only the inner end of any building, i.e., 
that furthest from the outer door. Thus it is frequently said that 

1 Marquardt, Rom. Altcrth. vii. I, 212. 

9 viii. 137. 3 Od. xix. 60 ; xx. 149. 

4 Otl. xvi. 415; xviii. 209. So also Nausican, Od. viii. 458. 

5 Od. xvii. 97. 6 Od. xix. 478. 


the nuptial chamber was Iv /xvxv So/xov, 1 and so Achilles sleeps 
kv iavx<j> kXktitjs : and in another place we have the phrase es 
fxv)(ov $aXdfj.ov. 2 No doubt the fxv)(6<i of the hall was the space on 
the stone threshold by the women's door, but it would seem 
that Rumpf is wrong in supposing that there was anything 
special or technical in this application of the term. 

That the floor of the [xeyapov between the two thresholds was 
of hard earth merely is proved by the account given us of 
Telemachus' proceedings in setting up the line of axes to shoot 
through. We are told that he dug a straight trench right 
across the hall 3 wherein to fix the handles of the axes. So 
at a later time, when Telemachus and the servants wish to 
cleanse the floor from the blood of the suitors, the instrument 
he uses is a XujTpov or shovel, which would obviously only be 
of use in working on an earthen floor. 

There are two other buildings in close connection with the 
hall, of the place of which we must speak, the baths and the 
treasury or armoury. 

We read in one place that when the suitors came to the 
palace of Odysseus they laid aside their outer garments, x^ a ^ va ^, 
on the seats of the hall, and went to the polished baths, 4 kv^ev- 
ras dcrafiLvdovs, and bathed, after which they returned to the 
hall. Closer indications are wanting, but it seems to me that 
the description is sufficiently definite to enable us to infer that 
the baths were a separate building, and as they clearly could 
not have been in the women's apartments they must have been 
in the outer court, avA?j, where indeed we should have expected, 
a priori, to find them. Odysseus, as we have already remarked, 
has his bath in the /xeyapov itself after the guests have left, 
but this is a curious exceptional case ; in fact the whole story 
of the bath of Odysseus seems to be an episode with a flavour 
of ruder times than the Homeric. 

As to the position of the treasury Homer seems to be less 
clear than in other matters. The first mention of a treasury in 
the house of Odysseus occurs in the following lines : 5 — 

rt 12? (f>dv' 6 6° v\j/6po<$>ov OdXajxov KaT€/3rjcraTO irarpos 
evpvv, 66 1 vrjrbs Yjoixros kol )(a^ K ^ €K€lto } &C, 

which at first sight seem to imply a treasure-house below ground. 
But doubt of this reading is at once suggested : perhaps the 

1 Od. iii. 402 of Nestor ; iv. 304 of Menelaus ; vii. 346 of Aleinons. 

2 Od. xvi. 285. 3 Od. xxi. 120. 
4 Od. xvii. 87. 5 Od. ii. 337. 


word dd\a[Aos may here not stand for treasury at all, but be 
used in its ordinary Homeric sense of "women's apartments," 
so that we must pass this passage as not decisive in any direc- 
tion. From the next passage of importance, 1 which describes 
the removal of the arms from the fxeyapov to the treasury, we 
do not gain any information as to the position of the latter, 
save that before the removal Euryclea shut the doors of the 
jjityapa, confining in them the women, lest they should in- 
terrupt the process. The fxeyapa here are clearly not the same 
as the iieyapov, probably they are the larger rooms of the 
6dkap.o<s, where the women were used to sit at their spinning. 2 
If, however, we turn to the passages relating to the treasury in 
later books, we shall find that it was in the women's court, 3 
and at its further extremity, OdXapios ecryaTos. It had a roof 
of beams, 4 and was protected by solid doors closed with a key. 5 
Besides the regular doors of the megaron, we also hear of an 
opa-oOvprj or postern, which led into a court, Aavp), and so into 
the open air. The position and use of this postern is a matter 
of considerable difficulty and importance ; but we cannot here 
discuss it. 

We now pass in our account of the Odysseian house to the 
third part, the 0dXap,os. Dr. Hayman, in opposition to all the 
ancient commentators, maintains 7 that there was not in the 
house of Odysseus any portion specially devoted to women. 
He therefore supposes the women's rooms to have been scattered 
round the p^kyapov and over the aWovaa. We have not space 
fully to examine his views, which certainly would not bear 
close examination. Not only was there a women's 6d\ap,os, but 
we are able in some degree to trace its arrangements. In the 
first place it contained the workroom or workrooms of the 
women. These Homer sometimes calls p,kyapa and sometimes 
OdX.ap.os. They were on the ground floor. This we know 
from a passage in the fourth book of the Odyssey, where Pene- 
lope is represented as weeping eir ovSov TroXvKp,r)Tov 0aAa/xoio, 8 
surrounded by her maidens, until at the request of her nurse 
she goes upstairs to the bed-chamber more especially belonging 
to her, 9 which was reached by a ladder, kAi/ao.^. 10 And we also 
know that in the midst of it was an open hypsethral court, in 
which had stood in old days an olive-tree, which with his own 
hands Odysseus had cut short and fashioned into a post for 
his bed, building about the bed so made a chamber of stone 

1 Od. xix. ad init. 2 Cf. Od. xxii. 151. 3 Od. xxi. 8. 

4 Od. xxii. 176. 5 Od. xxii. 156. 8 Od. xxii. 136. 

7 Od. vol. i. 127. 8 1. 718. 9 1. 760. M Od. xxi. 5. 


and roofing it over. 1 This same arrangement of a court in the 
women's apartments where fresh chambers could be built we 
meet in the house of Priam. 2 There, inside the house, were 
built fifty chambers of polished stone, where the fifty sons of 
Priam slept with their wives. On the other hand the twelve 
sons-in-law of Priam with their wives were not allowed, as not 
kindred in blood, to sleep in the women's apartments, but had 
chambers erected for them in the outer court, avhq. This dis- 
tinction is curious and interesting as throwing light on the 
manners of the times. 

The other houses mentioned in the Homeric poems may be 
passed with very few words. The Palace of Alcinous, though 
belonging in the main to fairyland, yet does not differ in plan 
from that of Odysseus. One curious point is worth noting, 
that a fire is kindled for Nausicaa in her private chamber and 
food prepared there. 3 Such luxuries were probably reserved 
for fairy-princesses in those rude days. The construction also 
of the Hall of Alcinous, lined with plates of bronze, has often 
been noted as comparable to that of the Treasuries of Mycenae 
and Orchomenus, which, however, were not lined, but only 
adorned with bronze ornaments. This construction was of 
course oriental ; and we find it surviving in the East, even in 
the days of Philostratus. 4 The house of Alcinous has even 
a brazen floor, it is a x a ^ K0 P aT *s &3 \ this, however, must be 
taken as a poetical flight. In all the description of that splendid 
house the poet acts on the words of the Jewish prophet, " For 
brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for 
wood brass, and for stones iron." 5 

In the abode of Circe 6 we find a flat roof whereon Elpenor 
sleeps for the sake of coolness, and whence, rising in alarm, 
he falls headlong to the ground below. But the flat roof was 
not invariable at the period. Most roofs were pointed, else the 
a/xet/3ovTes, the crossing beams which supported them, could 
not with propriety have been compared to wrestlers leaning 
forward to grasp one another. 7 In the instance of the abode of 
Eumaeus, and the tent of Achilles, we may observe that even 
the pressure of poverty and the necessities of a campaign, 
though they affect the size and elaborateness of a house, do 
not alter its general scheme. 

The above passages are reprinted with a few modifications 
from a paper written in i88i, s before the important discoveries 

1 Od. xxiii. i go. 2 77. vi. 242. 3 Od. vii. 12. 

4 Philo.str. Vit. Apol. 5 Isa. lx. 17. 6 Od. x. 552. 

7 //. xxiii. 712. 8 Jour 11. licit. Stud. iii. p. 264. 


at Tiryns took place : they are not suggested by those dis- 
coveries. But it will be necessary now to turn to the testimony 
of excavation in Argolis, to see whether it confirms the views 
here set forth. 

In most respects it confirms them, and adds reality and 
vividness to them. The prehistoric palace of Tiryns, a plan of 
which is here annexed, 1 is undoubtedly older by centuries than 
the Odyssey. But it was probably built by the race among 
whom the Odyssey arose ; and it is clear that the poet of the 
Odyssey had in his mind a palace in many respects like the 
Tirynthian model. At Tiryns we find a court, avh), with 
pillared cloisters round it, and in it an altar, which we naturally 
assume to have been dedicated to Zeus Herceius. At Tiryns 
we find a men's hall, jikyapov, approached through a portico, 
having in the midst a hearth and pillars, dividing it into three 
sections. The door-sills of this building are partly of stone and 
partly of wood. We find also a bathroom, approached from the 
hall by a narrow passage, and still holding a fragment of the 
<i<rd[jiLvdo<s j and the walls of the hall were adorned partly 
with frescoes and partly with a frieze of alabaster and glass, 
which we at once associate with the Homeric phrase dpiyKos 
kvolvolo. Indeed, the student who reads the Odyssey with 
the plan of the Tirynthian palace before him, will sometimes 
find an unexpected light. For example, when Nausicaa is 
directing Odysseus to the palace of her father, 2 she bids him 
pass through the hall to where her mother sits by the hearth in 
the firelight, resting against a pillar : this arrangement of hearth 
and pillar is well illustrated at Tiryns. 

There is, however, one great difficulty and apparent dis- 
crepancy. At Tiryns the apartments of the women seem to 
have been separate from those of the men, 3 and were without 
visible means of communication, whereas in the Odyssey close 
juxtaposition and constant intercourse between men's and 
women's apartments is constantly assumed. 4 Without denying 
that there here remains much to explain, we may observe, 
firstly, that there must have been at Tiryns some means of 
communication between the men's and women's quarters, 

1 From Schliemann's Tiryns, pi. ii. 2 Od. vi. 304. 

3 I say seem, because the evidence of their locality is not conclusive. 
Holm, for instance, thinks that Dorpfeld has wrongly assigned the 
women's apartments. Holm, Hist, of Greece, trans, I, p. 171. 

4 Miiller (Gr. Privatalterthumcr, p. 26) denies that in the house of 
Odysseus the women's rooms were behind those of the men and in contact 
with them. I cannot share his view. 



possibly through a postern gate such as that mentioned in the 
Odyssey, opo-odvprj ; and secondly, that the greater or less 
seclusion of women is a thing which might vary with degree 
of luxury or social circumstances, a time of disturbance and 
exile, such as followed the age of Tiryns, being especially likely 
to break down old customs in such matters. 

Limits of space have obliged me to treat of the Homeric 

Fig. 3.— Plan of Palace at Tiuyns. 

Palace in a summary way, without going into much detail, or 
discussing controverted terms and difficult passages. Many 
writers have thus gone into details, and it may be doubted 
whether the result has repaid their trouble. There can be no 
doubt that a microscopic examination of the story of Odysseus' 
return and the slaughter of the suitors shows in the poet of 
the Odyssey a certain amount of inconsistency. He does not 
seem to picture clearly to himself the scene of which he writes, 



or the locality where it took place. The episode of the fetching 
of arms by Melanthius, for instance, is on the face of it 
impossible. It is very probable that in working a variety of 
current tales into a consecutive poem he incorporated phrases 
which were inconsistent one with another. And it is also 
probable that the houses of his own time differed in various 
ways from those of tradition and convention. Thus all that 
we can hope to do is to fix a general outline, Avliich will pro- 
bably be fairly correct for the houses of the Achaean chiefs 
about the time of the Dorian Conquest. 

l'lu. 4.— FjRIEZI AT TlBYNS. (Schliemann, Tiryns, PL. IV.) 



Between the houses described by Homer and those of historical 
Greece there is a considerable break. The Homeric ava£ had 
in the times of Herodotus and Thucydides disappeared from 

1 Among the best German works on this subject are Winckler's 
Wohnhauser der Hellenen and Lange's Haus unci Halle. In the absence 
of satisfactory existing remains of Greek houses we must turn to Pompeii 
for aid to the imagination. 


southern Greece, and was to be found only in remote districts 
among tribes such as the Molossians and Athamanes. And 
with the prince had disappeared his ways of living and the 
hall where he dispensed open hospitality. The country-houses 
indeed retained even to the late ages of Greece much of their 
original character, as we shall presently see. But in the cities 
there was no longer room for extensive mansions, and houses 
were built for private persons and not for the benefit of a 
whole community. 

In fact in the best ages and the greatest cities of Greece 
private houses, even of distinguished men, were in no wise 
stately. Demosthenes, speaking of the heroes of the days of 
Marathon, says 1 that " while for the state they erected such 
buildings and set up such works of art as posterity has never 
been able to surpass, yet in private life they were so simple 
and moderate that if any one looks at the house of Aristides or 
Miltiades he will see that it is not more splendid than its 
neighbours." So too Pseudo-Dicaearchus testifies 2 of Athens, 
that most of the houses were poor and inconvenient, so that 
the stranger could scarcely realise that he was in celebrated 
Athens. And this state of things was protracted and intensified 
by the crowding of the city at the time of the Peloponnesian 
war, 3 when all the citizens nocked in from the country and 
filled all the vacant spaces, so that room for the enlargement 
of existing and the erection of new mansions was altogether 

The researches of Emile Burnouf 4 on the site of ancient 
Athens form an instructive comment on these statements. He 
discovered the sites of many hundreds of ancient houses, but 
the majority seem to have consisted of a single cell, the 
squared floor of which, cut in the rock, still exists. In some 
cases two or three of these square depressions probably be- 
longed to a single house, and sometimes several were united 
together around a court or peristyle. But extensive rooms 
and extended series were rare. The great houses of the 
rich of later times, of which Demosthenes says that many 
were more splendid than the public buildings, were mostly 
situate in the suburbs of great towns where land was easier 
to procure, and where room could be made for an army of 

The ground-plans of houses in the Piraeus have been laid 

1 Olyuth. iii. 25. 2 Frag. Hist. Gr. ii. 254. 

3 Thucyd. ii. 17. 4 Arch, dcs Missions Scientif. 


bate by Dr. Dorpfeld. 1 They were on a Larger scale, thai! 
those of Athens, but their internal arrangements cannot be 
clearly recovered. At Naucratis in Egypt 2 and on other 
ancient sites also the ground-plans of houses can be traced; 
but we have not as at Pompeii the walls, the pavements, and 
the fittings, without which mere lines of foundation give us 
but little help. We have therefore in the main to trust to 
statements of ancient writers. The engravings of the supposed 
house at Delos, which figures in Guhl and Koner and other 
works, are not to be relied on. But in recent years M. Homolle 
has recovered the foundations of a very interesting house in 
that island, to which we will presently return. 

The most striking difference between the larger houses of 
Greece and those of modern times lies in the fact that whereas 
our houses are built under a single roof and the rooms arranged 
about staircases and passages, the Greek houses were built 
about hypsethral or open courts. From these courts the house 
received light and air ; all the rooms opened on to them and 
received their light from them and not from windows in the 
outer walls. To the street, houses presented almost a blank 
wall ; but when once the outer door was passed, the visitor 
found himself in the very midst of the life of the house, and 
could see into every room of the court. Thus the houses were 
adapted to a far less private life than ours, and one passed far 
more than ours in the open air; and the number of slaves 
constantly moving in a house would keep it noisy and lively. 
Only in a very small family and in a small house could seclu- 
sion even for a few hours at a time be possible. 

In so slight a sketch as the present, it is not possible to 
treat apart the building fashions of various Greek towns or of 
successive periods. There can be no doubt that when Greece 
in the age of Hellenism turned from public to private life, 
that change had a great effect on the arrangements of houses, 
which became far more complicated and luxurious. But after 
all the change was gradual, and we are unable to trace it in 
detail. All that is here attempted is to give some notion of 
the sort of abodes usual in Greece during the ages of autonomy. 

It is natural that the fashion of building should change far 
more rapidly in towns than in the country ; and it would be 

1 Mittlail. d. d. Insf. A then, vol. ix. Dr. Dorpfeld's plan is repeated 
in Professor Middleton's article D<>mus in the new edition of Smith's 
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, i. p. 659. 

- Naukratis, part i., by W. M. Flinders Petrie ; part ii. by E. A. 


least liable to change in the case of farm-houses, the arrange- 
ments of which are dictated by practical necessity. So we are 
scarcely surprised to find still existing in Asia Minor in the 
time of Galen 1 (second century a. d. ) homesteads which belong 
to a very early stage of Aryan culture, and which may be 
regarded as in the line of descent not only of the Homeric 
palace and the Greek house of historical times, but also of the 
Roman atrium, and the farmsteads of Germany and England. 

They consisted of an oblong building, in the midst of which 
was the hearth and oven, and on either side rows of stalls for 
cattle ; while opposite to the door and behind the stove was 
an exedra or recess, with bedrooms to right and left of it, and 
sometimes a second tier of three rooms above these. It is easy 
to see how the progress of refinement might convert a house 
such as this either into a Roman atrium or a Greek peristyle. 

It is, however, the town houses of Greece which more par- 
ticularly concern us These we must divide into classes. 

We have to speak of three classes of houses : ( i ) the mansions 
of the wealthy ; (2) the abodes of the poorer citizens and 
metoeci ; (3) the cells of artisans and slaves. But we must 
not imagine that these three classes of dwellings were locally 
separate, as they may be logically separated. All were mingled 
in the same blocks of buildings. This we know from many 
sources, more especially from the existing ruins of Pompeii, 
a town built indeed rather on Oscan and Roman than on 
Greek principles, and yet affording us abundant information 
as to the customs of all ancient civilisation. At Pompeii we 
find small shops and lodging-houses built into the area of the 
larger houses, and reached either by means of separate entrances 
or sometimes actually from the doorway of the mansion. So 
at Cairo in our own day 2 "when shops occupj the lower part 
of the buildings in a street, the superstructure is usually divided 
into distinct lodgings. These lodgings are separate from each 
other as well as from the shops below, and let to families." 
Thus it was in ancient Greek cities. When we speak of a 
mansion as a thing complete in itself, we must remember the 
numerous parasites which ate a way into its walls, both on the 
ground-floor and the upper-floor. 

Existing remains, as well as authorities for the arrangements 
of ancient Greek houses, are not numerous. Vitruvius, an 
architect of the Augustan epoch, has left us a detailed descrip- 

1 De Antidotis, i. 3. Cf. Nissen, Pompeian. Studi^n, p. 612. 
2 Lane, Modern Egyptians, p. 20. 


tion of the Greek house as he knew it; but his description 
applies lather to the palaces of kings and wealthy nobles, erected 
during the third and second centuries at Hellenistic cities such 
as Antioeh and Alexandria. WC arc therefore obliged, in place 
of closely following his guidance, to piece together the scattered 
details of writers like Xenophon, Demosthenes, and Aristo- 
phanes. This has been done by a series of distinguished 
German writers, from Becker to Overbeck ; and as they agree 
in their general views, we may well accept these while reserving 
our judgment for fuller evidence in matters of detail. 

In building houses of any pretensions the Greeks were care- 
ful in the choice of an aspect. The house was built facing the 
south, 1 in such a way that the sun shone full into the pastas, 
which was, as we shall see, opposite the entry. In the Avinter 
it was desirable to have as much sun as possible, and in summer, 
as the sun was nearly overhead, there was plenty of shade in 
the corridors. The ancients were very studious of warmth, 
owing partly to the comparative scantiness of their clothing, 
and partly to the fact that their fires were of a very slight 

As the fronts of large houses were mostly occupied by shops 
on a level with the pavement, as in the London Royal Ex- 
change, the Greek streets cannot have been architecturally 
imposing. Nor were the materials of which the houses were 
built sumptuous or durable. These were usually a framework 
of wood, and walls of unbaked bricks. Tovs Tot^ov? -ir-qXtvovs 
e^o/xei/, says Plutarch; and it will be remembered how at Plataese, 2 
when the Thebans tried to seize the town, the inhabitants dug 
their way through from house to house, until they had gathered 
together a corps of armed men. Hence too the use of the verb 
Toix^pvxelv, which is used for burglarious entry. Nor did the 
fronts of Greek houses present, like ours, windows to the street ; 
the greatest break in the dead wall would be a narrow slit or 
a close casement. They were to be looked at from within 
and not from without. But no doubt, making due allowance 
for these inevitable drawbacks, the Greeks knew how to make 
the best of their materials. In the disposal of space within 
the house, however, their greatest care was spent. 

I insert a speculative plan of a simple Greek mansion. The 
student must remember that this plan is really no more than a 
diagram to assist our description. Greek houses were subject 
in their plan to local conditions, and varied widely. 

1 Xenophon, Memor. iii. 8 ; (Econ. ix. 4. - Thuc. ii. 3. 



The entrance to houses was usually on a level with the street 
or nearly so ; door-steps, dvafSaOfiot, were indeed at Athens for- 
bidden by special law. The street door (i) was often sur- 
mounted by a motto or charm, such as p^Sev eia-ino kolkov, and 
was in charge of a porter, dvpwpos, often an eunuch, who lived 
in a small cell just behind it (4), and had frequently as colleague 
a dog, either a real dog or one painted on floor or wall. Before 
admitting a visitor, the porter would sometimes retire to consult 
with his master. On reaching the door, the visitor knocked, a 
knocker, po-rrrpa, being attached for the use of visitors. The 
phrase for knocking is kotttciv Ovpav. In early times the 
street door, auAaos dvpa, sometimes opened outwards ; l but as 


'5 *3 







o! ■ lo 

O J / O 

L fij 


Fig. 5. —Speculative Plan of House. 

the streets grew more crowded, the inconvenience of this was 
felt, and it was prohibited at Athens under penalty of a fine. 
So generally in later times the door opened inward, whence a 
door on opening was said evSovvau. Through the door we enter 
the ttvXwv or dvpojv, called by Vitruvius 2 the Ovpwp€iov (2), a 
narrow passage which led between the porter's cell on the one 
side (4), and the stables of horses on the other (3), into the 
first court (A), which belonged to the male part of the family 
and was called the 'AvSpiovins. In the midst was the vira.idpov. 
or space open to the sky • around the four sides ran covered 
walks supported by pillars, and behind these were the rooms (8) 
where slept and lived the male slaves and sons of the family 

1 Arist. (Econ. ii. 5. 

Vitruvius vi. 7. 


when unmarried. We should indeed speak of cells rather than 
rooms; the chambers were really recesses not a fourth the size 

of our rooms, and divided from the court uot by doors but by 
curtains let down, irapaircTdcrftaTa. I lence they were also called 
ooj/xana. They comprised bedrooms, Komwesj as well as rooms 
for retiring. When the guests were received into the house 
itself, their rooms, Jevwvfs, were in this first court. But more 
usually in great houses the feiwes seem to have been quite 
outside the building. Thus Euripides 1 speaks of the egwirioi 
£ev<ov€s of the palace of Admetus, and Vitmvius confirms this 
arrangement. At the end of the court furthest from the street 
were larger rooms, oTkol, such as that in which the men dined, 
called the dvo/xov (J>), which contained the icr^dpa (6). In the 
kitchen were ovens, iicvoi or Kplftavoi, for the cooking of flesh. 
Amidst these rooms ran another narrow passage, guarded by 
a strong door (j) 2 which was usually locked at night, leading 
into the second court (C), which was that of the women, the 
TwaLKoviTis. This passage was called the fi&rav Aos or /zeravAos, 
and it was the height of effrontery for any visitor to pass it 
without an express permission from the master of the house, a 
favour which was rarely accorded except to near relations and 
intimate friends. The mistress of the house had the range of 
the whole of it; her dominion was bounded only by the street 
door; 3 but the unmarried daughters of the house seldom passed 
the /z«rai>Aos, except on important occasions. 

A somewhat vivid glimpse into the interior of the men's 
apartments is given us in Plato's Protagoras, where Socrates 
narrates his visit with Hippocrates to the house at Athens, in 
which the eminent rhetorician was staying. "When we had 
reached the porch, we stopped to finish the discussion of a 
subject which had arisen on the way : so, in order not to leave 
our talk unfinished, we stood arguing in the porch till we came 
to an agreement. The porter, an eunuch, heard us, as I fancy ; 
and probably being vexed with those who frequented the house, 
because of the number of the Sophists, when we knocked at 
the door, and he opened it and saw us, said, 'Ah! more 
Sophists; he is not at leisure.' And so with both hands he 
shut the door with all the vigour he could command. Then 

1 Afresfi<, ' .;. 

8 X<n. (Earn. i\. y This door was closed for two purposes, tva n^re 
^K((>^pi]TaL tvhoftev u ji /it) 5tl, /J.rjTe TeKVOTroiLovTai oi oik€tcu (ivev t^j rj/xerepas 

3 Menander apud Stoh. Scrrn. Ixxiv. u : irepas yap cu'Xtos Ovpa, eXcvOepa 
yvvaiKi V€vop.iOT oUias. 


we knocked again ; and he, with door shut, answered us : 
'Fellows,' said he, 'did you not hear that lie is not at 
leisure 1 ?' 'But, friend,' said I, 'we did not come to see 
Callias, nor are we Sophists ; cheer up, for we came in hope 
of seeing Protagoras. Come, announce us.' Grudgingly then 
the man opened the door to us. When we entered, we saw 
Protagoras walking up and down in the prostobn, and in a 
line with him walked, on one side of him, Callias, the son of 
Hipponicus, and his brother on the mother's side, Paralus, son 
of Pericles ; and Charmides, son of Glaucon ; and on the other 
side, the other son of Pericles, Xanthippus; and Philippides, 
the son of Philomelus ; and Antimoerus of Mende, who is the 
most notable of Protagoras' pupils, and learns with a view to 
practise, intending to be a Sophist. These were followed by 
a throng listening to the talk, who were mostly strangers, 
whom Protagoras attracts from all cities through which he 
passes, charming them with his voice, like Orpheus, so that 
they follow the witchery of his talk : in the chorus, however, 
were some Athenians. I was particularly pleased as I watched 
this chorus to see what care they took never to be in the way 
in front of Protagoras; but when he turned, and those with 
him, in good and orderly fashion, they separated in this direc- 
tion and that, and, wheeling round, kept themselves always in 
the rear most admirably. ' Next after him I beheld,' as Homer 
puts it, Hippias of Elis sitting on a chair in the opposite 
prostobn. Around him sat on benches Eryximachus, the son of 
Acumenus ; and Phaedrus of Myrrhine ; and Andron, the son of 
Androtion, and various strangers, some his own countrymen and 
some not. They seemed to be questioning Hippias about 
physics and astronomical subjects, while he, sitting on his 
chair, was deciding matters for each, and going through the 
questions in detail. Then, ' Tantalus, I saw ; ' for Prodicus 
of Ceos was staying there : he was in a room which Hipponicus 
had before used as a store-room ; but now Callias, in conse- 
quence of the crowd of visitors, had emptied it and made it a 
guest-chamber. Prodicus indeed was still in bed, covered up, 
it seemed, with fleeces and coverlets many in number ; and on 
couches near there sat by him Pausanias of Ceramis [and 
others]. But what they were talking about I could not tell 
from outside, though very desirous to hear Prodicus, for he 
seems to me an all-wise man and a divine ; but because of the 
grave tone of his voice, a certain echo rising in the house kept 
making his words indistinct." 

There is in this passage one important term connected with 


the house which we have not explained. This is the irpoo-Tuov. 
When Socrates reached the house of Callias he found on enter- 
ing Protagoras walking up and down in the 7t/)octt(oov, accom- 
panied by his disciples, and Bippias seated in the opposite 
Trpoanoov (kv tm KaravriKpv Trpoa-TOHo) among his followers. It is 
difficult to be certain of the meaning of the terms here em- 
ployed, but it would seem that the two prostoa are the two 
ends of the andronitis, that next the street and that next the 
women's apartments, in which case the rival Sophists mentioned 
by Plato would be separated by the whole length of the first 
court. The third Sophist, Prodicus, lay in one of the chambers 
opening out of the peristyle. If three discussions could go on 
at once in the andronitis, and three parties of pupils assemble, 
it must have been of considerable size. 

The ground plan of the women's court was probably in 
general similar to that of the men. There was the same 
hypaethral opening, with chambers round, chambers mostly 
tenanted by female slaves or used as the offices of the mistress. 
P>ut here the peristyle, according to Yitruvius, stretched round 
three sides of the court only. On the fourth side, that furthest, 
as a rule, from the street and the /xecravAos, was a different 
arrangement. There were here two pillars only, and between 
them a recess called Trao-ras or Trpoorr&s (10), which seems to have 
been a shallow room with walls on three sides, but open to the 
court. This Trao-ras is mentioned by Xenophon, 1 and would appear 
to be an ancient and essential part of the house, if we consider 
the passage of Galen already discussed, where we find mention of 
something closely resembling it in rude and primitive farmhouses. 
About this recess were grouped the most important rooms of 
the court. On one side of it, according to Vitruvius, was the 
6d\ap,o<s ( 1 1 ), the bedroom of the master and mistress of the 
house, where were stored the most precious pieces of furniture 
and coverlets. 2 On the other side was the dpcfii$dXapo<s (12), 
where slept in all probability the unmarried daughters of 
the house. Behind the irpoaTds were a series of rooms (13, 
14) where the women and female slaves worked by day, spinning 
and weaving under the eyes of the mistress. Here the house 
ended, either in a blank wall or in a garden 3 entered from the 
women's rooms by a door, K^iraia dvpa (15). 

Such was the ideal rather than the actual arrangement of a 
Greek mansion. In actual fact, doubtless the architect built 

1 Manor, iii. 8. 9. - Xen<>ph. (Econ. ix. 3. 

3 For representations of ancient gardens, see Schieiber's Bih/eratlas, 
pi. lv. 

4 o 


according to the space at his disposal and the wishes of his 
client. In many houses some of the features mentioned would 
be absent, in others they would be differently arranged from 
the prescription of Yitruvius. This is notably the case with 
the only Greek house which has reached us in such a state that 
its restoration may be considered by no means hopeless, a 
mansion of the second century B.C., excavated at Delos by M. 
Homolle, 1 of which we here copy the ground-plan. The door- 



—® ©--- 



'75 . 






Fig. 5A.— House at Delos. 

way on the street, which was encrusted with marble, led into 
the vestibule A, between the chambers B and C, one of which 
doubtless belonged to the porter. Through this we pass into 
the peristyle D, the hypaethral opening of which is paved with 
mosaic and surrounded by columns ten feet high. From this 
peristyle there open off a variety of rooms of which H would 
probably be the dining-hall. As besides the columns of the 
peristyle, pillars of smaller size were found in the ruins, it seems 

1 Bulletin de Corresp. Hell 1884, p. 473, pi. xxi. 


certain, as M. Homolle observes, that a second peristyle sur- 
mounted the first, and about it were probably grouped the 
women's rooms. These would be approached by a staircase 
instead of the futravkos. This arrangement of the house on 
two Hours instead of one was, as we shall presently see, not 

This house lias only one door, that opening on the street. 
A somewhat notable feature in it is presented by the under- 
ground cisterns or cellars, which are indeed, as M. Homolle 
observes, very common among the ruins at Delos. The Storage 
of water would be at Delos specially necessary; yet we must 
suppose such cisterns, with runlets and drains, to have been 
usual in ( !reek houses: they are even found at Tiryns. 

An important subject of inquiry is the number and position 
of the shrines of deities in the Greek mansion. This subject 
has been of late years discussed by Petersen and Premier, 1 but 
there is still considerable doubt in regard to it. Outside the 
houses were many Hermse, situate, as Thucydides says, 2 in front 
of private houses as well as in shrines, and almost every large 
house had a statue or painting or altar of Apollo Aguieus placed 
close by the outer door. Suidas says that the $eos 'Ayvievs 
was sometimes identified rather with Dionysus than with 
Apollo; and as the deity was often represented by a mere 
conical pillar, it maybe doubted if he was really different from 
the Hermes of the street. Within the house there were many 
shrines. 3 The priest of any deity would naturally have a small 
shrine and image of that deity in his private house. In the 
bedchamber little sanctuaries of the deoi yafi-qXioL were not 
unusual. Indeed, private fancy might convert a house into 
a nest of deities, each represented by a statue, and honoured 
with a little altar ; and many small shrines have been found 
in the houses at Pompeii. Plato, in the Laws, 4 advocates the 
abolition of these private sacraria, as leading often to impiety, 
and complains of the superstition of those who erect in their 
private houses altars and shrines, thinking by private devotion 
to get the gods on their side. Put apart from these question- 
able practices, it would seem that Greek houses usually had 
two altars which specially belonged to the family as such. 
These belonged to Zeus Herceius and to Hestia respectively. 
The altar of Zeus seems to have been in the midst of the 
andronitia The altar of Hestia, which was originally the mere 

1 Petersen, Hausgiitter ; Premier, Hestia. 2 vi. 27. 

3 Some are figured in Sclneibcr'b Adas, pi xviii. 4 x. p, 909. 


fire of the household, altered its character when regular kitchens 
came into use. Hestia did not migrate to the kitchen when 
the custom of having viands prepared there came in, but still 
retained her post in the principal room of the house, and had 
an altar in the place of the blazing fire with which she had 
previously been associated. To this subject we will presently 
return. On the altar of Hestia sacrifices were offered to all 
gods, and such altars belonged not only to private houses, 
but to each city and tribe, being found in town-halls and 

We must institute a brief comparison between the Homeric 
and the historical Greek house. It is generally assumed that 
these have nothing in common, and must be studied quite 
apart. This I do not hold. I think it can be shown that the 
first hypsethral court or andronitis is the successor of the 
Homeric aule ; that the andron is the diminished and reduced 
successor of the Homeric megaron ; and that the position and 
perhaps the arrangement of the women's quarters was not 
greatly changed. 

Of the truth of this statement I will offer three proofs. Of 
these the first arises from the probabilities of the case. A rude 
farmyard like the aule, and a huge rough hall like the megaron 
suited free life in the country and the rough sociability of 
Homeric times. As the Greeks grew in culture and took to 
living in cities, the aule would naturally become civilised, and 
the rooms round it become part of the house, while on the 
other hand the feeding-room of the men would lose its enor- 
mous proportions and become a dining-room instead of a feast- 
ing-hall. Secondly, we find that, as a matter of fact, the term 
av\rj is used by (.'reek writers to designate the andronitis. 
Thus in a passage of Plutarch ] we read of a crowd forcing the 
outer door of a house and rushing across the av\y) into the 
Odka/jios, that is to say, passing across the first court into the 
second or gynaeconitis. But the best and most decisive of all 
proofs that the dv&puvLTis of later Greek houses corresponds 
to the Homeric av\rj, and the dvSpotv to the Homeric fieyapov 
is found in the positions of the altars of deities, which are 
evidently the especial features of nn ancient house lenst likely 
to be changed. In the Homeric house we found the altar of 
Zeus Herceius in the midst of the aule : in the later Greek 
house the same altar was certainly in the midst of the court of 

1 De Gcnio Socr. 32. Of. Plato, Protag. p. 311. where the word au\ij 
is similar!) used. 


tlif Mirironitis. 1 In tht" Hoin.iic house the. altar of Hestia was 
in the megaron, and in the historical house probably in the 
andron, or dining-room. 9 

The floors were usually made of concrete. Ai^ocrrpan-a, or 
mosaics of stone, did not come in until the times of the Per- 
ganiene kings ; but the concrete was painted in patterns so 
as to please the eye. Vitruvius 3 gives a complete recipe for 
its manufacture in true Greek style. Whether there were 
usually doors between the various rooms and the courts has been 
disputed. It is evident that storehouses and places of that 
kind must often have had doors which would fasten. But 
the division in the case of ordinary rooms was made rather by 
means of parapetasmata. When doors existed, as they certainly 
did in the metaulus and probably in the thalamus, they were 
usually fastened by a wooden bolt, fitting into a niche in the 
doorpost, a perfect fastening for those within. But doors like 
those of closets had to be fitted with locks and keys to be 
opened from outside ; and in fact a certain number of bronze keys 
have come down to us, and the manner in which they were 
used is shown by paintings on vases. When locks were not 
used, a substitute was found in the <r<f)payis or seal, which was 
commonly set on all doors which hid valuable property. Of 
course if at any time one of these seals were found broken 
some slave would be sure to suffer for it. 

The light entered the Greek house mainly through the 
central openings in the roofs of the courts. There were indeed 
windows, OvpiSes, in the outer walls, especially of the upper 
storeys, and even windows looking on the street, at which the 
women would sometimes surreptitiously show themselves. As, 
however, the Greeks did not, until Roman times, use glass, these 
were necessarily small and often closed. They were probably, 
like windows at Cairo, 4 filled with wooden lattices so closely 
worked as to shut out the sunlight and secure privacy. The 
interior decoration of houses seems first to have been carried 
out with any completeness at Athens by Alcibiades, who em- 
ployed the painter Agatharchus on that task ; but the poorness 
of the light within made the attempt always unsatisfactory, 
nor do the greater painters seem to have undertaken it. A 
commoner decoration than painting seems to have been stucco 
ornaments, 7roiKiA/i.aTa. 5 No paintings were found on the walls 
of M. Homolle's Delian house : slabs of marble seem to have 

1 Plato, Repub. p. 328. - Of. -l.'/o///. 1055. ' V.aria neao/ncpaXos. 

J v ii. 4- 4 Lane, Modern Egyptians, p. 6. 

5 Plato, A'epub. vii. p. 529. 



been used instead. But at a later time, as at Pompeii, paint- 
ings of very moderate merit were universal. 

The arrangements for the warming of Greek houses were of 
a somewhat primitive character. It is supposed that large 
halls were warmed by a fire lighted in the midst, of which the 
smoke escaped, not by any special outlet, but by a hole in the 
roof. It is generally supposed that the passage in the Wasps 1 
in which Philocleon tries to escape from the house with the 
smoke implies a regular chimney, but this can scarcely be 
allowed. The heating of rooms was accomplished, as it often 
is to this day in Southern Europe, by filling a portable brazier, 
dvOpaKui, with wood or charcoal and setting fire to it. The 

Fig. 6.— Window. 2 (Late Greek Vase.) 

fumes of course fill the room, but this is tolerated for the sake 
of the warmth. In this way light as well as heat would be 
secured ; but when light without heat was required, little lamps 
of metal or of earthenware were lit, and placed on shelves or 
on tall lampstands, Ovfjaar^pLa. These lamps in later times took 
the place of the rude torches of Homer. Sometimes, however, 
the shape of the torch was retained, but it was made in metal 
and filled with resin and other combustibles, and a sort of 
saucer was added to keep the burning substances from falling 
on the hands. 

A great house with two courts would suit the means of the 
wealthy only. Persons of moderate means contented them- 

Wasps, 1. 144. 

2 Millingen, Vases Grccs, pi. 30. 


Selves with a small area and two sets of rooms, one set over 

the other, of which the upper was appropriated to the women, 

the lower to the men. 'This we learn from an oration of 
Lysias, 1 who describes the house of one Euphiletus as of this 
character. But the wife of Euphiletus bearing a child, the 
husband resigned in her favour the lower storey, 2 fearing that 
she might receive an injury, having daily to ascend and descend 
a ladder when she wanted to wash. He took in return the 
upper storey. Whether these viripya or upper chambers were 
usually to be found in the great houses is not certain. If they 
existed, they were used only by slaves. People of a still poorer 
class lived in a single room, or rather cell. The crowding in 
our modern towns was far exceeded by that of the cities of 
antiquity, as is abundantly proved by existing ruins, notably at 
Rome and Pompeii. 

Besides the private dwellings of citizens were to be found in 
all great cities, more especially those of late growth, like Antioch 
and Alexandria, tall lodging-houses, ctvvolk tat, piled storey above 
storey, in the fashion of the Roman insulae, each storey being 
probably the abode of a separate family. The different storeys 
were probably reached by means of ladders. At Athens the 
metoici must have lived in such abodes, for the law would not 
recognise their possession of a separate house. As the Greeks 
used, not sloping, but flat roofs, crrey^, in all their houses, it 
would be easy to add storey after storey to the edifice as 
necessity arose. These flat roofs were also places for exercise 
and for surveying the streets, and sometimes, in case the city 
were attacked, they furnished a splendid vantage-ground for 
street fighting. 

The furniture of houses, like their arrangements generally, 
became more and more luxurious and splendid after the political 
decay of Greece had begun. Ischomachus' house, in Xenophon's 
Economies, fairly represents the well-ordered but not luxurious 
abode of an Athenian in the fifth century. 

"My house, Socrates," he says, "is not adorned with stucco 
ornaments, but the rooms are all built with a view to being 
as well fitted as possible to the contents for which they are 
intended, so that they seemed to demand what was fitting to 
each. The thalamos in a safe corner seemed to call for coverlets 
and vessels of the most valuable sort ; the dry parts of the house, 

1 De Cccde Eratostli. ii. 3. 

1 Young children also were kept in the lower part, for fear of injury ; 
hence the point in Acharn. 41 I : apa(Bddr)u Touts, i^ov KaTa^ddrjv, ovk trbs 
X,wXoi)s Troieh. 


corn : the cold, wine; and the light parts to require such furniture 
and vessels as most need light. And I showed my wife the 
living-rooms well adorned, arranged so as to be cold in summer 
and warm in winter. And I took her over all the house, 
showing her how it lies open to the south, so as evidently to 
be sunny in winter and shady in summer. . . . And when we 
had been over all these things, then we began to array the 
furniture in sets. We began first by putting together the 
things we use for sacrifice. After that we set out the female 
attire used for festivals, the male attire used for festivals and 
for war, then the coverlets (o-T/ow/xara) in the gynseconitis, those 
in the andronitis, women's sandals, and men's sandals. There 
was one class consisting of weapons, one of spinning materials, 
one of materials for making bread, one of cooking- vessels, 
another of washing materials, another of things to do with 
baking, another of tilings to do with setting meals. These 
all we divided into sets, some for constant use, and some only 
for feasts." l 

The seats used in Greek houses seem to have gone under the 
names, ditppos, kAict/xo?, and Opovos. The first of these was the 
simple stool without back. Very frequently it folded like our 
camp-stools, but sometimes again the legs were stiff, as in the 
case of the Si(f)poi carried by the women of the metoeci in the 
Panathenaic procession. The distinction between KAioyxos and 
Opovos is not rigidly kept. Both were seats with backs, and 
usually accompanied by a footstool, but the Opovos was more 
solid and square-made. The chairs which we find on vases and 
reliefs combine elegance with great comfort : the sloping backs 
are admirably adapted to the convenience of the sitter. On 
the other hand the stately seats of the gods (in their temples) 
and in great houses, though not so comfortable, lent themselves 
very much to ornament. Backs, sides, bars, and legs offered 
a series of flat surfaces, each of which was frequently inlaid 
with gold and ivory or adorned with sculptural reliefs. In the 
case of couches, kXIvcli, also we find lighter and heavier classes, 
which may be considered as elongations of the 8icf>po<s and the 
Bpovos respectively. The lighter couches were carried from 
room to room and used both at meal-time and bed-time. 2 They 
frequently had a back, resembling exactly in shape our old- 
fashioned sofas. The usual arrangement of Greek beds was 
as follows : across the frame strong thongs, tovol, were stretched 

1 In Schreiber's Bilderatlas, pi. lxxxvi., will be found representations of 
pieces of furniture. 

2 A couch is figured below, Fig. 22. 


in order to form a support. 1 On this was placed a mattress, 
tcv€(f>akov or TvXeiov, usually stuffed with wool, ami pillows, 

7r/>oo-Ke</)ttA(Juu, for which feathers wen; sometimes used. OpoD 
these were piled various coverlets, vurvpai, Trepiu-Tpiopara, or 
€7ri^A?J/xaTa, of wool and skin, and the recliner might, according 
to the weather, lie under or mi them. The Greek over-garments 
acted perfectly as blankels, so that the warmth could be in- 
creased at pleasure. A bed of the commoner sort, such as 
Socrates used, was called a-fa'procs. 

Large Bquare or oblong tables, Tptiirc^at, were not in use 
among the Greeks. At meal times a number of small three- 
legged tables, TpiiroSts, were brought in by the slaves, and 
placed one or two at each couch to hold the food and drink. 
At the end of a meal they could easily be carried out and the 
floor cleaned from the debris which accumulated there, such as 
bones and other uneatable fragments. 

A prominent place in the apartments of the women was 
occupied by the chests and presses, XdpvaKes or Kipwroi, where 
clothes and articles of adornment were stored. These were 
large and solid, and frequently inlaid with ivory and metal, 
and adorned with reliefs and designs. Sometimes they were 
covered, like the chest of Cypselus, 2 with mythological and 
legendary scenes, every scene being accompanied with in- 
scriptions to explain its meaning. Such chests are constantly 
represented in later vases, together with unguent-boxes, mirrors, 
and all the necessaries for female adornment. 

Most large houses would have a sundial, yvwpov, by which 
the course of time might be traced. Sometimes in place of it 
a KXexpvSpa, or water-clock, was used, which marked the course 
of the hours by the rise or fall of water in a graduated vessel. 
Both dials and clepsydrae were also disposed in public spots in 
the cities, such as the agoras. 3 

The earthenware in a Greek house was of extraordinary 
variety, and often of great beauty. There was the vast ttlBos, 
in which oil, water, or provisions were stored, which was 
let into the earth and was as capacious as a modern cistern. 
There were the tall tapering dpcfropels, which were filled with 
wine and stored in cellars underground, rude vessels of coarse 
clay. Of a very different fabric were another kind of vessels, 
which were beautifully painted with figures, and of very ele- 
gant shapes. In the vase-rooms of the British Museum is a 

1 A bed described in detail, Lysiatrata, 916. 

2 Fully described by Pausanias, v. 17. 3 See Chapter II. 


large collection of these receptacles, which have been preserved 
in large numbers to our days in consequence of the Greek 
custom of placing them in graves. Some of the more notice- 
able forms may be mentioned. The vSpia was used by women 
for fetching water. It was a bulky vessel, distinguished by 
having a third handle half-way down, to render its carriage 
easier. The d^opevs was a tall, handsome vessel 1 with two 
large handles, used for holding wine, oil, and other liquids. 
The kinds of vases used most in drinking were the Kparyjp, 
which Avas in shape like a large loving-cup, and was used 
in mixing wine with water ; the olvoyorj, a sort of decanter 
out of which wine was poured ; the ipvKTrjp, or cooling vessel ; 
and the /ci'AtJ, which was the ordinary drinking-cup, in shape 
like a large flat wineglass with two handles, but seldom hold- 
ing less than half a pint, usually more. For the kylix a drink- 
ing-horn, Kepas or pvrov, was sometimes substituted. These had 
a hole at the lower end, which was stopped by the thumb. 
This hole was put to the mouth, the thumb removed, and the 
vessel drained at a draught. 

Another vessel in constant use was the XtjkvOos, which was 
filled with oil and carried with the strigil to the bath. The 
dpv/3a\\os and the dkd/Sao-Tpov, the latter of alabaster, were 
used for unguents, and often imported with their contents from 
the East. The ^taXai were flat saucers which would hold 
solids, and the KaXaOoi or baskets were used for fruit or bread. 

Most or all of the above vessels were also made in bronze and 
silver, or, except at an early period, in glass, vdXiva kKirupara ; 2 
and in wealthy houses earthenware, Kepa/xeia, was probably used 
but little. There was also no doubt in Greek houses a great 
variety of kitchen utensils in earthenware, iron, and bronze, 
of tripods, and Ae/^res, and saucepans, and cooking-pots, but as 
there is no Greek Pompeii few specimens have come down to 
us. We must not, however, omit to mention a common domestic 
object which time has naturally destroyed, the oVkos or leather- 
bottle, which was the rival of the amphora of earthenware as 
a receptacle for wine. 

1 This class of amphorae must be distinguished from that above men- 
tioned. It may be doubted whether these painted vases were really used. 
Vessels of metal would be more serviceable. 

2 Acharn. 73. 




In speaking of the dress of Greek men and women there are 
two distinctions which we must ever bear in mind The first 
is between the Ionic and Doric style of dress. The Ionic was 
that used by the natives of Asia Minor, the Phrygians and 
Lycians, and the Greeks who came in contact with them. 
According to Herodotus 2 it was originally Carian, and adopted 
from the Carians by the Greeks. The second was the national 
Greek dress, which belonged to the primitive inhabitants of the 
country, and was used by the Greeks, except the Ionians, in 
Homer's time, and again in the best ages of Greece. It is thus 
the Doric dress that usually appears on statuary, except the 

The second distinction is between the tvSvfxa, the under- 
garment which was put on, and the ircpipXrjfxa or €7ri/?A^/xa, the 
cloak or mantle which was, as we shall see, merely thrown 
round the form and fastened by one clasp at most. The verb 
€v8v€(r0ai is used regularly for putting on the inner, TrepifiaWtcrQaL 
for putting on the outer garment. 

lint almost all Greek dresses, whether under- or over-garments, 
consist in origin and essence of a square or oblong piece of 
material, merely made up without or with sewing into a shape 
suitable for wearing. The only exceptions to this rule are the 
Ionian chiton and certain under-garments used apparently for 
warmth alone, and met with occasionally in sculpture and more 
frequently on vases. It may perhaps be at first doubted 
whether the authority of monuments of painting and sculpture 
is the most satisfactory that can be procured in regard to Greek 
dress. Of course in our day sculpture does not reproduce the 
dress of actual daily life, but a conventional synthesis. We 
have, however, no ground for supposing that such was the case 
among the Greeks. Dress with them was of a character well 
adapted to sculptural effect. In the later Greek reliefs, no 
doubt, dress is introduced as drapery, that is rather with a 
view to artistic e fleet than to reproducing a convenient or even 
a possible way of clothing. And in archaic art we often find 

1 An excellent work en Greek Drets is that <»f Lady Evans (Macmillan 
and C<>., 1S93). - v. 88. 


folds and arrangements of dress of a purely conventional 
character. Nevertheless monuments are on the whole the most 
trustworthy, as they are by far the most complete sources of 
testimony as to Greek clothing, and it is satisfactory to note 
that on the whole the information thence derived is entirely 
confirmed by the statements of ancient writers, as we shall see 
in the course of this chapter. 

That the dress worn alike by men and women in Greece was 
not of a character to satisfy modern notions of comfort or even 
of decency is unquestionable ; but we must make allowances 
for the climate of the Greeks, the character of their civilisation, 
and more especially their feeling that nudity brought no dis- 
grace on a man, while women seldom mingled with men in 
public. In our day in Japan, 1 a country which bears much 
resemblance to Greece in social conditions, the same notions 
as to dress still prevail. 

There is some difficulty as to the primitive dress of the 
Athenians. Homer distinctly includes them among the Taoves 
lAKe^tTwves, 2 who wear long trailing garments, and we have 
abundant evidence, including a statement of Thucydides, 3 that, 
in the time preceding the Persian wars, Athenian men wore 
long linen chitons reaching to the ground, and fastened their 
hair in the Ionian manner with golden grasshoppers. Herodotus, 
however, asserts that the women of the Athenians wore in 
early times the Dorian dress and changed it for the Ionian 
on a specified historical occasion. An Attic expedition against 
yEgina, probably of the sixth century 4 B.C., had so disastrously 
failed that one survivor only returned, and he was stabbed 
to death by the women with the brooches (irepovat) of their 
garments. This so much offended the Athenian people that 
they compelled the women to change their chiton to the Ionian, 
which did not require brooches for its support. Scarcely can 
we believe, even on the testimony of Herodotus, that the 
Ionian dress for men and the Dorian for women were in use 
at once at Athens before the iEginetan war ; and yet this 
is what we must suppose if we accept his story. 

At any rate it is certain that, before the Persian wars, the 
Ionian dress was common, while from the time of the Persian 
wars onwards men in Greece proper wore the Dorian dress, 
and that the women also mostly wore the Dorian dress 
throughout Greece proper at the same period. For in the 

1 See Miss Bird's Japan, vol. i. pp. 148, 150, 154. 2 R. xiii. 685. 

3 I. 6 ; cf. Aristoph. Knights, 1. 1331 ; Eustath. ad R. xiii. 685. 

4 Herod, v. 87 : B.C. 580-550, according to Miiller, ^figvnetica. 


case of both sexes, whereas sculpture of the early period 
often represents the Ionian, that of developed Greek art repre- 
sents predominantly the Dorian dress. In the sculptures from 
the Parthenon, the Erechtheum, the temple at Bassse, and 
other buildings of the age of Pericles and subsequent times, 
the Doric dress is usually borne both by men and women. 

There are indeed great difficulties as to the distinction of 
Ionian and Dorian dress on the monuments. There are 
many instances in which the dress is clearly Ionian, others 
in which it is clearly Dorian ; but there is a large class 
between the two ; and it may be doubted whether some of 
the characteristics of archaic dress, instead of being of Ionian 
type, may not really be due to the peculiarities of early art. 
We would take as the type and example of Ionic dress 
the figures on the so-called Harpy tomb from Lycia, and of 
the Dorian dress the figures of Sterope and Hippodameia in 
the pediment at Olympia. 

I must describe in some detail the method of wearing the 
principal Greek dresses : the Ionian chiton, the Dorian chiton, 
the himation, and the chlamys. Our guides for the present 
will be extant monuments ; afterwards we will consider the 
testimony of writers as to the different classes which wore 
these garments. 

The Ionian chiton worn by women seems in shape to have 
resembled a long night-gown, with two full sleeves reaching 
somewhat below the elbow. That worn by men also reached 
the feet. It was made of linen. The statues of the bearded 
Dionysus, one of which is at the British Museum, show this 
chiton as worn by men ; its wearing by women is far more 
usual. Besides the Lycian tomb at the British Museum, the 
female archaic statues at Athens, Delos, and Ephesus and else- 
where bear this dress, and it appears in early Attic vase 

The Ionian chiton was worn by both men and women in 
exactly the same way ; and over it was worn a heavy square 
garment, doubled, and often fastened by a brooch, usually on 
one shoulder. Some writers regard this over-garment as the 
equivalent of the Doric chiton, and the Ionian chiton as an 
under shift \ while some regard it as the himation, of which 
we shall presently speak. The dress of men and women on 
monuments like the Harpy tomb is so undistinguishable that 
several of the figures now recognised as male were for a long 
time supposed to be female. 

The principle of the Doric women's chiton will be readily 


understood from the accompanying illustrations. A piece of 
square or oblong cloth or linen was taken (Fig. 8, I. I m o n), and 
doubled over at the line a b, when it would present the form 
a b o n, where the portion a m is double. This was again 
doubled at the line c d and folded backwards so as to leave the 
flap I m c visible (Fig. 8, II.). The person putting it on would 
now stand inside it at efh g (Fig. 8, III.), and fix with buckles 

F IG . 7 .— Ionic Dkess : M.enad. (Fkom a Vase.) 

or clasps the front and back portions together over each 
shoulder at e and /. She would then let the corners a b 
and c fall, and the whole chiton would be disposed about her. 
The flap over at the upper part of the body was called the 
diplo'is, 8i7rAoi'Siov or airoirTvyixa. The left side of the body 
c d was thus properly shielded, but the right side a b, n o, 
was comparatively unprotected, the chiton being only fastened 



at the shoulders and being open from the shoulder to the 
ground. For this reason the chiton was often termed o-^kttos. 
To remedy this defect a girdle was used, being fastened round 
the loins of the wearer; under the girdle the dress could easily 
be drawn so as to overlap and to hide the want of continuity. 
Moreover, as the chiton was generally long, it would trail on the 
ground unless raised by means of the girdle, (wv-q or £<oi'lov, 
when the superfluous length would fall over the girdle in the 















Fig. 8.— i. n. in. 

form of a fold or koXttos. Sometimes the open side of the chiton 
was sewed up, as is the case with the Canephorse of the Erech- 
theum, and our Fig. 9, and sometimes in addition to the one 
fastening at the shoulder others were added on the upper arm. 
It is to be observed that the women of the Spartans, Cretans, 
and other true Dorian races did not wear a x^ T(ov irofhjfyqs such 
as we have described, but a shorter garment reaching to the 
knee and offering less impediment to the motion of the legs. 
Jt was put on as above mentioned, and the diplois and girdle 



were universal ; but sometimes it was fastened on one shoulder 
only, so as to leave the right arm perfectly free. For this short 
chiton see the statue at the Vatican, which represents the girl 
who won the race at Olympia, or most of the statues of the 

Dorian huntress Artemis. It is 
clear that the girdle afforded the 
means of making any chiton as 
short as the wearer pleased by 
making the kolpos fuller. In the 
case of most statues we see the 
kolpos falling just below the diplo'is. 
Sometimes the diplo'is was made 
long and the girdle passed over 
that as well as the rest. It was 
possible, as we see from a statue at 
the British Museum, to draw over 
the head the part of the diplo'is 
which fell down the back so as to 
form a sort of hood or veil, KaXv-n-Tpa 
or KaXvfxixa. The veil was among 
Greek women not usually a separate 
article of dress, but only a fold of 
the upper or under garment. 1 

When women wore a large and 
thick chiton with diplo'is they often 
wore nothing over it. Indeed the 
Dorian chiton may be considered 
quite as much an outer 2 as an 
under garment. Pollux 3 says that 
when a garment was so ample as 
to serve alike as an under and an 
over-garment, eVSiyxa re ojaou kou 
it epi/3 A^/xa, it was called a £v<ttls. 
This £v<ttIs seems to constitute the 
dress of women in such monuments 
as the pediments of Olympia, and 
the dress of young girls on the 
Athenian stelee. 
The chiton of Dorian men, which indeed was in historical 
times worn by all Greeks, did not differ in shape and arrangc- 

1 For an instance of hiding the face with the chiton, see Plutarch, Dc 
Virt. Mul. 26. 

2 Thus Herodotus, in the passage already cited, calls it ifxa.TLOi>. 

3 vii. 49. 

Fig. 9.— Bronze Figure 




merit from that of women, but was very much shorter, being 
arranged without a diplols or kolpos, and yet reaching only 
half-way down the thigh. 

The himatioo was worn in much the same way by botli 
sexes, by women as the upper, by men frequently as the sole 
garment. It consisted of a large nearly square piece of cloth, 
doubled over {abed, see Fig. 10, I.) at the line / m, so as to be 
oblong (/ m C d, Fig. to, II.). This was then taken up and the 
point x placed on the left shoulder, the line x m reaching down 
the chest. It was then brought round the back until the point 
?/ passed under the right arm, which was left quite free. It 
was then brought round the chest until the point z reached 
the left shoulder, when the remainder z I was gathered together 

Fig. io.— i. ii. 

and thrown over the back (Fig. io, III.). It was not fastened 
at all, but held together by its own weight and by the arms. 
Thus it required skilful adjustment; but a little practice with 
a blanket will soon convince the student that it could easily be 
kept on except during exercise or in a high wind. The above 
is the most usual mode of adjustment, but several others were 
common for the sake of comfort or variety. Thus sometimes 
the order of arrangement just described was reversed, and the 
garment brought, first round the chest, under the right arm and 
then round the back, in which case the end gathered together 
would hang down in front of instead of behind the left shoulder. 
Sometimes when this reverse order was observed the end of the 
himation was at starting placed under the left arm instead of 
being thrown backward over the shoulder. Sometimes it was 



fastened on one shoulder with a fibula. Other variations may 
be observed by any one who takes the trouble to examine the 
monuments. It would seem from reliefs that when a Greek 
sat down or reclined, he usually allowed his himation to fall to 
his waist, about which he gathered it. 

Women commonly draw the himation over instead of under 

the right shoulder and turned 
up the outer fold over the 
head and shoulders to form 
an ample veil. A good in- 
stance is the colossal statue 
called Artemisia in the Brit- 
ish Museum. The himation 
of women was called dfiirexovrj 
or <f>apos. 1 

Such were the ordinary or 
standard shapes of the Greek 
garments, but of course they 
varied a good deal at various 
times. Thus the xAa/mvs, 
which was originally a riding 
and war cloak of the Thes- 
salians and other northern 
races, was early introduced 
into Greece and almost en- 
tirely superseded the hima- 
tion as a cloak for young 
men and for men on active 
business. The mode of wear- 
ing the chlamys was very 
simple. It was of oblong 
shape and doubled until 
nearly square, as in the en- 
graving; m n thus becomes 
the closed side and ab,cd the 
open one. The wearer stand- 
ing with his back to the 
reader puts his head through at m e and fastens the chlamys 
at e with a buckle on his right shoulder. The ends would hang 
down or flap in the wind, whence they were called 7rrepvy€<s. 

1 The standard work on Greek dress is Studniczka, Altgriechische Tracht, 
1886. I may say, however, that though the above views correspond nearly 
with those of Studniczka, they had been written and expressed in lectures 
before his work appeared. 

Fig. 10.— hi. Asklepios. 



In this way tlio left arm, which was in riding naturally used 
only to hold the reins, would be entirely covered, but the right 
quite free to hold whip or lance ; the points c d would hang down 
and nearly touch the ground. 

The mention made of dress in various passages in Homer 
shows that at that period all Greeks wore two garments, one 
under and one upper. The under garment is called in Homer 
by its later (I reek name, the x«"°»', 1 in the case of men, but 
in the case of women it was called w«rA.os. 2 No doubt it was 
a garment worn in Dorian fashion, short in the case of all men 
except the 'Iaovcs eAKex^wves, but longer in the case of women. 
Over this the Greek men wore a double or folded garment, 
called by Homer \Xalva^ or sometimes Aw7r?7, which are oidy 
older names for the Greek l/xaTLov. Women wore, in addition 

Fig. ii.—- 1. ii. 

to the 7T«rAos, a veil, KaXvirrpa or K/or/oV/zvov. 4 The yXalva 
served not only as a protection against weather, but being a 
large square or oblong piece of woollen, was used as a bed- 

Coming down to historical times, we do not find in the case 
of dress so great changes as we found in the case of houses. 
First we will speak of men. In historical times the long 
chiton had gone out of use, except in the case of priests and 
other persons of dignity, as well as those who, like the 
charioteer, required protection from the wind. Men wore as 

1 Od. xiv. 488, &c. This word is rendered "doublet" by Butcher and 
Lang. It clearly, however, corresponds to our "shirt." 

2 Thus Athena, when arming (//. v. 734), takes off her peplos, and puts 
on in its place the chiton of her father Zeus. 

3 Od. xix. 226. * Od. xviii. 292. 


the normal dress a short Dorian chiton and a himation. This 
might be proved by a score of passages ; but it will be sufficient 
to cite one. It is said that Hippias at Olympia 1 wore nothing 
that he had not made himself ; the list of his clothes includes 
for the body only t/xa-riov, x«.t<dvio-kos, and favq, or girdle. To 
this rule, however, there were exceptions. At Athens boys in 
early times wore only the chiton, went yv/xvob in the snow, 2 as 
Dikaios Logos says in Aristophanes ; and it was not until the 
time of the Peloponnesian war that they took to wrapping 
themselves up in himatia. When the boys reached the 
ephebic age, they wore, besides the chiton, a chlamys, the 
manner of wearing which garment may be studied in the 
Parthenon frieze. 

At Sparta, as might have been supposed, dress was ruder and 
scantier. The boys, as Plutarch 3 tells us, began at twelve years 
old to go about without a chiton, getting one himation a year. 
And this custom they commonly kept up even as men, going 
about with the himation only ; and the Spartan himation was 
a small and rough garment. It was called contemptuously 
rp'ipuv by more luxurious Greeks. From the Spartans the 
custom of dispensing with an under-garment spread among the 
hardier, more simple, or more philosophical of the Greeks. 
Socrates 4 wore only a poor himation, the same summer and 
winter, with no chiton; so did the orator Lycurgus. Gelon, 
King of Syracuse, sometimes surprised the citizens by coming to 
the Ecclesia aylruv kv i/xaTiw. The followers of Antisthenes 
carried the custom to a further extreme. Of course when occu- 
pied in physical labour, a Greek would throw aside the outer 
garment and wear the chiton only. The rude chiton, fastened 
on one shoulder only, ere/oo/xao-xaAos x tT0>l/ or *£ w /"s> belonged 
especially to slaves and those who had to undergo hard labour. 
Freemen fastened the chiton over both shoulders, a/x</u/xao-xaAos 

Gentlemen were particular as to the way of putting on and 
the way of wearing the himation The correct way of putting 
on was called ht\ Se£ia ava/3aAAeo-#ai. Poseidon, in the Birds 
of Aristophanes, 5 ridicules Triballus for putting on his garment, 
«r' dpia-T€pa. By the former phrase I understand adjusting 
the garment under the right shoulder before throwing it over 
the left. It was also well-bred to keep the left-hand under the 
himation; and it was considered the part of a lout, aypoiKos, to 

1 Plato, Hip. Min. p. 368. 2 Nubes, 1. 964. 3 Lycurg. 16. 

4 Xenoph Memor. i. 6. 2. 5 1. 1567. 


hoist the ends above the knee, so as to show the legs; 1 it was 
far better to let it trail slightly on the ground. We hear that 
it was one of the affectations of the young Alcibiades 2 to let his 
himation trail on the ground. 

Next as regards women : of these the usual house-dress con- 
sisted of the chiton, the outdoor and company dress of that 
together with the himation. On the Athenian stelae, young 
girls commonly wear only an ample chiton ; matrons wear the 
himation also ; and slaves wear a garment with long sleeves. 
It has been doubted whether in addition an under-chiton, 
XiTwviov, was not frequently worn. It is difficult to settle this 
point by reference to the writers ; but probability is certainly 
in favour of the wearing of warm underclothing in cold weather. 
We find also in sculpture a few clear instances of an under- 
chiton, as in case of one of the female figures on a drum of a 
column from Ephesus in the British Museum. 

The Laconian women, like the Laconian men, wore fewer 
and more scanty clothes than their Attic sisters. Thus we 
hear 3 that Periander of Epidaurus saw the daughter of Procles, 
Melitta, dressed in Laconian fashion, pouring out wine for 
men at work in the fields and fell in love with her. This 
Laconian dress is more closely described in the passage 
dvainr€)(ovos Kal ixovoylruiv rjv, " She had one chiton and no 
over-garment." And not only did Dorian women go about 
rlad in chiton only, but that chiton was quite short. This 
we may judge from the numerous statues of Amazons and 
Artemis, wherein the chiton barely reaches to the knee. 
So too Pausanias 4 says of the women who ran races at 
Olympia that their yiruv stopped short a little above the 
knee, and they showed the right shoulder down to the chest, 
a statement fully borne out by the celebrated statue in the 
Vatican of a virgin victorious in the race. 

Sometimes the diplois of a woman's dress was not a mere 
fold of the chiton, but a separate garment, put on over it ; and 
those Greek women who were in fear of losing their shape wore 
something remotely resembling the modern stays. This was 
the crrpoifiLov, a broad band tied round the body just below the 
breasts and restraining them and the abdomen. This article 
appears in vase-paintings. Archaic sculpture shows a tendency 
to contracting the waist, of women; but this tendency entirely 
disappears in the period of developed art: it is clear that the 

1 Theophr. Ch«r. 4. 2 Plutarch, Alcib. i. 

3 Fythajnetus in Athen. xiii. 56. * v. 16, 3. 


Greeks regarded a small waist not merely as unhealthy but 
as ugly. 

The colours of Greek dress were many. Men indeed wore both 
chiton and himation usually either of white or of some sober 
colour, such as brown. But that women wore the gayest and 
brightest colours we know not only from statements of writers, 
but from the statuettes discovered at Tanagra. The ground- 
colour of the chiton was white or yellow ; it had a broad border 
either of some bright colour, red or blue, or of deep embroidery. 
As to the himatia of women there is no rule. They were of 
the gayest colours, frequently covered with stars, flowers, or 
checks, and sometimes adorned with elaborate embroidery, rows 
of animals, or human figures, beautiful designs of all sorts. 1 

The material of the dress of the men seems to have been 
wool. The chiton of the women was of far lighter and more 
elegant material, as any one may see by examining the dresses 
of the figures from the Parthenon. Linen was in use from the 
oldest times, but some kinds of it were of great delicacy, 
particularly a variety grown in the island of Amorgus. Byssus 
also, the nature of which is somewhat obscure, was a very 
delicate material. At a later period, silk, j3ofx/3vKiva, a-qpLKa, 
was much used by the rich, being imported by merchants from 
the far East. The silkworm itself was not introduced until 
Byzantine times. As early as Aristophanes we find mention 
of the ei/iara 8iacf>avrj, which were affected by courtesans, such 
as the notable Coan robes. The rough working-dresses of slaves 
and artisans were often of leather, sometimes of the hide of 
goats or sheep with the hair on. Such was the SicfiOepa of 
herdsmen, and such the aegis, which Pallas retained in a modified 
form to the latest times. Homer's heroes in some cases wear 
the skin of a wild beast over their armour or chitons ; thus 
Paris is clad in a panther's and Agamemnon in a lion's skin, 
as is Heracles in monuments of all periods. 2 

A few words must be added as to Greek military dress, 
though that subject belongs more strictly to the antiquities of 
war, treated of in a future chapter. The Greek hoplite, of 
whom a typical figure is here engraved (Fig. 13), wore on his 
head a helmet of bronze or iron with tall crest of horse- 
hair. Some forms of helmet, the so-called Corinthian, could 

1 The colours of Greek dresses may be studied not only in the Tanagra 
statuettes, but also in the female archaic figures recently discovered at 
Athens. A fragment of an actual dress adorned with figures of ducks, 
chariots, and other devices was found in a grave in the Crimea {Compies 
Rendus, 1878, pi. iv.) - 11. iii. 17 ; x. 23. 



either be drawn down over the face or rest on the back of 
the head. Other forms merely fitted the back part of the head, 
leaving the face free, but sometimes having cheek pieces to 
protect the cheeks. The helmet of the Macedonians and 
Thessalians had a broad brim, like that of their riding-hats. 

Fig. 12.— Garment of Dkmktek. (From a Vase by Hiebon.) 

The heavy cuirass, which was worn over a chiton, consisted of 
two plates of metal, one for the front and one for the back, 
which were laced together and connected also by metal shoulder- 
pieces. In early days the Homeric ph-pr}, plated with metal, 
was worn below the waist 1 but fell out of use. From B.C. 500 

1 \V. Leaf, "Armour of Homeric Heroes,'' Journ. //ell. Stud. iv. 73. 



onwards, the groin was protected by leather flaps, irrtpvytq, 
which hung down to the thigh, as in our example. Pausanias 
observes (x. 27, 6) that a true cuirass (yvaAov) gave sufficient 
protection even without a shield j but it was heavy and cumbrous, 
and as Pausanias implies, it was to a great extent superseded 

Fig. 13. — Greek Warrior, from a Vase. 

in later times by lighter cuirasses composed of linen and leather. 
On Greek vases, where heroes of old time are commonly depicted, 
the metal cuirass is usual. Greaves on the lower legs, fastened 
by elastic metal bands, with sandals, completed the equipment. 
The thighs had to be protected by the shield. 


The student who endeavours to collect the details of Greek 
dress from the surviving monuments of art must be careful to 
observe that the Greek sculptors, in representing Orientals, 
Persians, or Phrygians, or the imaginary Amazons, endeavour to 
give their dress according to the national habit of each. Thus 
both Phrygians and Persians are made to wear chitons with 
long sleeves and breeches, dvagvpiSes, reaching down to the feet ; 
together with the Phrygian cap, which is the well-known cap 
of liberty. In vases and reliefs Paris, Anchises, even Pelops 
are often represented in this Oriental costume ; so the student 
must not rashly assume that because a representation is of a 
hero celebrated in Greek lore, therefore the details of his cos- 
tunic are Greek. In the case of the Amazons the Greek 
artists allowed themselves much liberty, dressing them some- 
times as Orientals in long sleeves and drawers, sometimes 
inertly in the short Doric chiton. 

If we may judge from the monuments, the clothes of 
Greek children did not differ except in size from those of 
adults. In sepulchral reliefs we see young girls clad in the 
Ionian or the Dorian chiton, just like their mothers, of whom 
they are miniature copies, even to the way of doing the hair. 
On vases we see young boys, if they have any clothes at all, 
wearing the chiton or wrapped in great himatia. It would 
appear, however, from an already mentioned passage 1 of Aristo- 
phanes that the earlier custom was for boys to wear the chiton 

Near home, in the streets and the agora, neither men nor 
women usually wore a hat. The women arranged the himation 
so as to cover the head and hide most of the face ; the men 
walked bare headed. But in going on journeys, in riding 
abroad, in working in the fields, and even in the cities in bad 
weather, the men would carry a hat or cap. The hat, which 
was worn by the Ephebi, by those who rode on horseback and 
the upper classes generally, was, like the chlamys, introduced 
from northern Greece. It was called the Trhacros, and was in 
shape flat with broad rim. It is usually represented in statues 
of Hermes, who was the traveller par excellence. The Kava-ta, 
worn by Macedonian husbandmen and cavalry, was little if at 
all different. But while the petasus formed an excellent pro- 
tection against the sun, it was not suitable for warding off wind 
and rain. So the classes most exposed to rough weather, such 
as labourers, smiths, and sailors, wore the pileus, irlkos, which 

1 Clouds, 964, 987. 


was a soft conical cap, without peak, fitting closely to the 
heath Already in Homer 1 we find Laertes, when working in 
the field, wearing an alyetr) Kvvery, a close-fitting cap of goat- 
skin ; but at a later time felt was substituted for skin. Even 
the citizens of Athens in rainy weather took a felt cap about 
with them to keep their ears and hair dry. 

At home the Greek citizen went bare-footed ; even when 
visiting a friend he would leave his shoes without, as is still 
the custom- in the East. But boots of some sort, and stout ones, 
were necessary to any one who had to walk over the ill-paved 
and rough roads of ancient Greece. The simplest form of shoe- 
covering was the cravSdXiov or e/x^as, which consisted merely of 
a sole, V7r68r)[xa or Kacro-v/xa, fastened below the foot by thongs of 
leather passing between the toes, which were called fuyos. Such 
were the fikavrai put on by Socrates when he went out to 
dinner. 2 In the country it was usual until a late period to wear 
a stout sole fastened to the foot by means of interlaced thongs, 
which were secured round the ankle. For thongs of leather 
the poor substituted rude cords, a-rrapTta. Hunters and those 
who had to make their way over rough ground required more 
protection for the lower part of the leg ; but even these did 
not usually wear close boots like ours. They merely extended 
the crossing thongs of leather from the ankle half-way up to 
the knee. These hunting-boots, evSpo/xi'Ses or KoBopvoi, may be 
studied in the representations of the huntress Artemis. The 
Greeks did not wear anything corresponding to our stockings. 
Thus in the case of most sculptures, we see the toes uncovered, 
and standing out from sandal or endromis. But this rule is by 
no means universal. Like the peoples of the East and of Italy, 
the Greeks sometimes wore close boots. Thus many of the 
riders of the Parthenon frieze wear covered boots coming half- 
way up the leg. These are also common in vase-pictures. So 
too the Persian slippers, the Uepa-LKat of Aristophanes, 3 which 
were worn by women, must have covered the whole foot. 

One reason for the remissness of the Greeks in the matter 
of head-covering was that nature had provided them with 
luxuriant hair. This from the time of Homer onwards the 
Kapt]Koix6wvT€s 'A^atoi cultivated into a long and bushy mane 
such as we see on the head of the statues of Zeus. The 
Spartans in particular were very proud of their long hair and 
tended it carefully, considering it the badge of a free man. And 
so it was, since, as Aristotle remarks, a man with long flowing 

1 Horn. Od. xxiv. 231. 2 Plato, Symp. 174. 3 Clouds, 151. 


hair could scarcely engage in one of those mean and servile 
handicrafts which the Greeks so despised. It will be remem- 
bered how Xerxes found the Spartans at Thermopylae combing 
their long locks, and at a later period the long hair of Gylippus 
roused the ridicule of the people of Syracuse, 1 Dorians though 
they were. AVe learn from Thucydides that not much before 
his time the Athenians wore long hair, which they wound into 
a knot or Kpm/SvXos on the top of the head, fastened with golden 
grasshoppers, xpvcrwv T€TTiy<DV ivepaet Kpu)/3v\ov dva8ovp.€voi tojv 
cv t\] K€(f>aX.rj TpiyQ>v. This passage has caused much contro- 
versy. When we turn to the works of Archaic sculpture we 
find the hair of Apollo Dionysus and other male deities growing 
long but not hanging loose. It is commonly gathered in a knot 
at the back or the top of the head, or secured in plaits. The 
Kp(i)/3vkos then might be this knot or bunch of hair, but no 
ancient monument represents it as secured with a grasshopper, 
or indeed with a fibula of any shape ; it is bound with a simple 
raivca or cord. 2 Professor Helbig has maintained that the 
TeTTtyes were not fibulae at all. He thinks that the early 
Greeks and Etruscans fixed their locks in position by means 
of golden spirals, o-vptyyes, which are frequently found in 
Etruscan tombs, and that the name TeTTtJ, was given to the 
spirals so arranged because of their resemblance to the annulose 
body of the grasshopper. Homer's line may be compared, 

7rAox/xot 6' o'l xpvcrii) re kgu dpyvpco ia-cfiyjKCOVTO :5 

But so inconvenient a custom died in time ; when, we cannot 
be sure. The monuments seem to indicate the fifth century 
B.C. as the time when long hair became unfashionable ; pro- 
bably at Sparta it persisted until the time of the Achaean 

Thus at the date of the Peloponnesian war there was a 
contrast between Sparta and the rest of Greece in this matter. 
At Sparta the hair of the boys was cut short, but as soon as 
they came to man's estate they allowed it to grow long. Even 
at other cities nofxdv was a sign of a Laconian partisan, as 
appears from Aristophanes. 4 But at Athens and the other 
cities of Greece, when a boy reached the age of an e<£?//3os, he 
dedicated his hair with various ceremonies in the temple of a 
deity, usually of a river-god/' Thus the Ephebi of the reliefs 
of the Parthenon have all short hair. After long hair had 

1 Thucyd. i. 6. 

- Archaol. Zcitung for 1877, p. 89 ; Homeriache Lpos. Sec. xxi. 
3 II. xvii. 53. 4 Knights, 579 ; Clouds, 14. 

5 ^schylus, Choejjh. 6. 

E * 


ceased to be fashionable and the mark of a gentleman, the 
custom completely changed, and very short hair was worn alike 
by athletes and by those who affected a reputation for austerity ; 
whence it happened that at a late time the Spartans and their 
imitators wore not longer but shorter hair than other people. 

The dimensions of the beard also decrease in the course of 
Greek history. In early times a long full beard was regarded 
as a sign of manliness, the Spartans in this matter also taking 
the lead of the rest. Shaving was introduced by the Mace- 
donian conquerors, who found the beards of their soldiers 
inconvenient in a campaign, partly as giving the enemy a 
handle to seize, partly in all probability from motives of 
cleanliness. From this time on, men of the governing classes 
and soldiers always completely shaved; and the beard was 
left to those who affected ancient manners, and philosophers. 
It is, however, remarkable that on Athenian reliefs of the 
Macedonian period, the normal citizen is always represented as 
wearing a short beard, just as on the frieze of the Parthenon. 
The moustache without the beard marks the Gauls and other 

To go into the details of the hair-dressing of women would 
demand a far greater space than we dispose of. The fashion 
was constantly changing. Now the hair was confined by a 
simple band, racvla, passed five or six times round ; now a 
pointed metal coronet, <TT€(t>dvr}, was worn above the forehead, 
and the back hair confined by a net, K€Kpv<j)a\os. Now the hair 
was almost concealed by a kind of nightcap, pirpa or o-olkkos, 
either reticulated or not. More frequently still it was wound 
with a broadening band, called from its shape, which resembled 
that of a sling, crfavSovrj. The 8td8r)[xa, which was a simple fillet 
tied in a bow at the back of the head, was worn after the time 
of Alexander only by kings and queens. Frequently the hair 
was allowed to hang down the back in simple curl. Hetaerae 
frequently wore their hair short and hanging about their ears. 

The art of beautifying was carried on with the greatest 
vigour in antiquity. As women were so secluded and seldom 
seen from near, the falseness of their manufactured charms had 
the less chance of being detected. Athenseus l quotes from 
Alexis, a contemporary of Alexander, a terrible list of the 
changes which courtesans brought about in themselves. The 
short woman put cork in her shoes, the tall wore the thinnest 
soles, the shape was dexterously moulded with cushions and pads, 

1 Athen. xiii. p. 568, 


the complexion was brought to the desired colour by means of 
paint, and the hair was dyed according to fancy. Nor were 
these base arts confined to women of doubtful character. The 
young wife of Xenophon's Ischomachus, 1 who is represented 
as a pattern of propriety, used white and red paint until her 
husband persuaded her that he preferred nature to art. Only 
among the Dorian women, who far surpassed the others in 
health and strength, we hear of no painting and making-up. 

The Greek lady who went abroad would carry a sunshade, 
(TKta&iov, in shape resembling ours, to keep off the sun. The 
same implement might have been used in rainy weather, but 
this does not seem to have been the case. Men, especially 
elderly men and men from the country, carried a stout stick, 
on which they leaned when standing, and which they used 
freely on the persons of those children and slaves whom they 
supposed to stand in need of correction. 

1 Xenophon. (Econ. x. 8. 




The religion of the Hellenes, as it is presented to us in Greek 
literature and history, is undoubtedly a much-compounded 
thing. There are in it elements derived from a great variety 
of sources, sometimes completely fused together, and sometimes 
very imperfectly combined. It is also vague and fluctuating in 
a high degree. It is altogether erroneous to regard it as a 
fixed and organised whole. "We moderns approach the study 
of it under great disadvantage, because our notions of religion 
are taken from the history of Christianity, which is in the 
main a religion of authority, originating in a single time and 
a definite place. Hellenic Paganism was not made, but grew 
during long ages amid varying circumstances, and subject to 
all kinds of influences. It may be compared not to a temple 
or palace designed by man, but to a tree, rooted in human nature 
and putting forth its shoots and blossoms in due season. 

In Greek religion, as it is known to us. there are various 
strands. Recent writers have been more and more disposed 
to trace the origin of a great part of it to that worship of 
ancestors which is so marked a feature in all tribes at a certain 
stage of civilisation. There may also exist in it vestiges of 
tribal worship, the veneration of some hereditary totem, out of 
which at a certain stage of decay there arises, by some obscure 
process, a deity or deities. And some part of the religion of 
the Hellenes, though not so large a part as people fancied a 
quarter of a century ago, must belong to the general traditions 
of the Aryan race, and have arisen from the wonder of our 
remote ancestors at the facts of storm and sunshine, day and 
night, summer and winter. Further, there can be no question 



that both in pre-historic and historic times the Greeks were as 
ready to accept mythology from the nations of the East with 
whom they traded and fought as they were to accept the re- 
ligious images of Oriental fabric which are still abundantly 
found on many early Greek sites. 

We may attempt a division of these various elements of 
religion into two classes, which we may roughly term national 
and borrowed. In the national class we shall include all 
that belongs to the Greek tribes as an ancestral inheritance, 
wli ether dating from the early age of barbarism or developed 
in the various lands in which they successively dwelt. In the 
borrowed class we shall place not only the local elements, which 
belonged rather to the various spots of Greece, than to the 
people who had come to dwell there, but also all that the 
Greeks adopted from the neighbouring nations. A clear and 
strong line of division between the two classes can indeed 
seldom be drawn. In the cultus of any given deity they are 
almost sure to be intermingled ; yet an attempt to separate 
them may help to clear our minds, and to lay bare the rudi- 
ments of the subject before us. 

In the present chapter we will deal with the national ele- 
ments, in the next chapter with those which are partly or wholly 

The national or native strands in Greek religion appear to 
be three, of which we will treat in succession; (1) Totemism; 
(2) Ancestor- worship ; (3) Naturalism. 

( 1 ) It is a matter of comparatively recent discovery how large 
a part is furnished to primitive religions by the class of con- 
ceptions which is summed up in the word totemism. There 
is still much that is obscure in regard to those conceptions ; 
but writers like Andrew Lang 1 have certainly succeeded in 
explaining by their means some points previously inexplicable 
in Greek myth and cult; and that which has thus been 
rendered intelligible belongs to the earliest straat of Hellenic 
religion. If these writers have tried to carry their method 
of explanation into fields where it is not altogether at home, 
this is but a proceeding which we must expect in the case 
of all new theories of the kind. As a matter of fact, though 
apparent traces of totemism may be found in Greek mythology 
and worship, yet a very small and a very unimportant part of 
those highly civilised growths can be directly or completely 
explained by the notions of totemism. Totemism may lie at 

1 Custom and Myth, 1885. 


the foundation of much, but that foundation, as in the build- 
ings of competent architects, is usually buried out of sight. 

"A totem," writes Mr. Frazer, 1 "is a class of material objects 
which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that 
there exists between him and every member of the class an 
altogether special relation. The connection between a man and 
his totem is mutually beneficent : the totem protects the man, 
and the man shows his respect for the totem in various ways, 
by not killing it if it be an animal, and not cutting or gathering 
it if it be a plant. As distinguished from a fetish, a totem is 
never an isolated individual, but always a class of objects, 
generally a species of animals or of plants. The clan totem is 
reverenced by a body of men and women who call themselves 
by the name of the totem, believe themselves to be of one 
blood, descendants of a common ancestor, and are bound 
together by common obligations to each other and by a common 
faith in the totem. Totemism is thus both a religious and a 
social system." 

As to the reasons of the adoption of this extraordinary system 
by savages in all parts of the world, we are entirely ignorant. 
That it had ceased to have any intellectual recognition among 
the Greeks of the historic age is sufficiently clear. Yet the 
probability that the Hellenic race had at some time passed 
through this stage of culture helps us to understand some of 
their beliefs of the origin of which they themselves were 
wholly ignorant. When we find in the place of honour in the 
temple of Apollo at Delphi a conical stone called the 'O/x^aAos, 
we dc not hesitate to say that it must originally have been 
worshipped as a fetish-stone. The Greeks of Pindar's time had 
another explanation 2 of the sacred character of the stone ; but 
we set aside that explanation. 3 In the same way we may 
explain by the ideas of totemism the veneration of the Greeks 
for certain animals and plants, although they had abundant 
sacred legends to account in each case for their sentiment. 

There was a story that when the gods of Olympus were 
threatened by the terrible monster Typhoeus they fled, all save 
Zeus, into Egypt, and hid themselves in the forms of animals. 

1 Totemism, pp. I, 2. 

2 Cf. Pindar, Pyth. iv. 4. The Scholiast on this verse tells us that 
Zeus set forth two eagles from the two ends of the earth and they met at 
Delphi, whence the Omphalos at Delphi was regarded as the centre of the 

3 To fetishism I will return in the next chapter : whereas totemism 
belongs to tribes, it belongs to localities, and so is usually a borrowed 
element in Greek religion 


It was thus that later Greece accounted for the curious fact 
that with each of the deities was closely associated some sacred 
animal or animals — the swan, the wolf, the raven, the mouse 
with Apollo in various sites of his cult, the stag and the bear 
with Artemis, the ram with Hermes, the dog with Hecate and 
so forth. In these cases the anthropological school accepts 
another explanation, that the deity was originally the god of 
a clan or tribe whose totem was this favourite animal. A 
couple of instances will suffice. 

At Athens, Athena was closely associated with the serpent. 
In her temple was preserved a great snake, fed at stated times, 
and supposed to be the embodiment of the Attic hero Erich- 
thonius. In the great Parthenos statue by Pheidias, a snake 
was represented as sheltering himself behind the shield of the 
goddess, and in one of the pediments of the Parthenon he 
appears at her side. The legendary King of Attica, Cecrops, is 
represented in art as a snake from the waist downwards. These 
facts may be regarded as proving that in Attica in primeval 
days there was a clan which accepted the snake as its totem, 
and that the snake as an object of cultus gave way in time to 
Athena. Again there were at Athens ceremonies in which 
certain Attic maidens imitated bears, and danced the bear 
dance in honour of the Brauronian Artemis. In Arcadia also 
the bear was connected with Artemis, and it was told how she 
had turned into a bear Callisto, a mythological rival, who was 
really only a duplicate of herself. This bear-goddess Artemis 
may have at some time belonged to a clan whose sacred animal 
was the bear. 

An explanation of this kind will almost always be possible 
when the favourite of the deity is an animal or bird. When 
it is a plant, such as the sacred laurel of Apollo, or the sacred 
olive of Athena, a totemistic explanation may sometimes be 
the best. But sometimes we shall prefer to think that the 
deity has inherited the honours accorded to some fetish tree, 
and that the origin of the cult is local rather than tribal. 

It should, however, be observed that the worship of animals 
may be explained on quite other principles than those of 
totemism. As Mr. Frazer has pointed out in his Golden Bough, 
the reverence shown by hunting tribes towards the animals 
which they habitually kill is based on feelings the opposite to 
those of totemism. Mr. Frazer also maintains that there are 
cases in which tree -spirits and corn-spirits are conceived in the 
form of animals. Totemism being quite as much a social as a 
religious system, and nothing of it being visible in the social 


organisation of Greece, it must be somewhat uncertain whether 
what looks like the result of totemism in Greek religion may 
not have some other explanation. 

When we reach, in a future chapter, the subject of Greek 
practical cultus, we shall have again to deal with conceptions 
which may originate in conditions of totemism. And in our 
classification of myths we shall have to point out a certain 
number which belong to the totemist range of conceptions. 
But as a root-principle of Greek religion, as Greek religion 
existed in historic days, totemism is not of very great import- 
ance. We must pass on to other elements of greater weight. 

The second great source of Greek religion which may be safely 
classified as of native origin is the worship of deceased ancestors. 

The worship of the dead can scarcely be said to lie on the 
surface of the great Attic literature. 1 That literature, in fact, 
belongs rather to all time and to human nature than to a par- 
ticular age and country, and what is local and temporary in 
Greek thought and feeling has ever a tendency to fall into 
the background in it. It represents the Greek mind in the 
same way in which the Doryphorus of Polycleitus, and the 
Apoxyomenus of Lysippus represent the Greek body : they 
give us the better and nobler side, and put out of sight what 
is mean and unworthy. In the great age of Greece, and in 
the favoured city of the Athenians, religion meant the worship 
of the great deities of Olympus, the highest and noblest forms 
of the Greek religious consciousness. Primitive and patriarchal 
elements of religion still existed, but they were thrust into 
the background. Thus, as indeed a glance at Athenian sepul- 
chral monuments will assure us, the worship of the dead did 
not occupy among the elite of Greece the same space in men's 
minds which at an earlier time it had held, and which it still 
held in the more conservative districts. 

Nevertheless, a careful search will disclose many passages 
even in the Attic writers which illustrate this form of religion. 
The opening passage of the Choephori, for example, tells of 
cultus kept up at the tombs of deceased worthies In the 
Alcestis, the heroine of the play is scarcely dead before she is 
invoked by the chorus as a spiritual power, able to give and to 
withhold favours : — 

VVV 8' €(TTL fJLaKOUpa 6W/X(0V, 

1 The following paragraphs are taken from a paper contributed by the 
writer to the Journal of Hellenic S udies, vol. v. p. 125. 


It is instructive to compare with such passages as these a class 
of vases peculiarly Athenian, the beautiful white X.-qKv6oi, 1 
which bear paintings in almost all cases illustrative of the 
offerings brought to the tombs of departed ancestors by sur- 
vivors. The abundance of these vases proves that the ideas 
which they illustrate were quite familiar to the Athenians. 

At a lower level than that of poetry, in the laws and the 
customs, more especially the burial-customs, of the Greeks, we 
find ample proof of the tenacity with which they clung to the 
belief that the dead desired offerings of food and incense, and 
were willing in return to furnish protection and aid. 

It is well known to be one of the most universal and deepest 
rooted convictions among barbarians, that the dead are not 
without feelings and perceptions, but remain keenly sensitive 
to the treatment they receive from their kindred, and require 
of them much assistance. The dead man, living in his tomb as 
he had lived in his house, requires frequent supplies of food 
and drink, rejoices in the presence of armour and ornaments, 
such as he loved in life, and is very sensitive to discourteous 
treatment. These ideas were part of the mental furniture of 
the whole Aryan race, before it separated into branches, and 
are found in all the countries over which it spread. 

In the earliest of Greek graves, such as the so-called Treasury 
of Atreus, at Mycenae, and the building at Orchomenus, we find 
an inner chamber perhaps for the dead, and an outer chamber to 
which those who came to pay their respects to the tenant of 
the tomb probably had access, and which may have been stored 
with articles of pomp and splendour, set aside for his enjoy- 
ment. It is well known with what care the early Greeks 
provided in the chamber in which they placed a corpse all that 
was necessary for its comfort, I had almost said its existence. 
Sometimes wine and food was there laid up in a little store, a 
lamp was provided full of oil, frequently even kept burning to 
relieve the darkness ; and around were strewn the clothes and 
the armour in which the dead hero had delighted ; sometimes 
even, by a refinement of realism, a whetstone to sharpen the 
edge of sword and spear in case they should grow blunt with 
use. The horse of a warrior was sometimes slain and buried 
with him that he might not in another world endure the in- 
dignity of having to walk. Even in Homeric days the custom 
survived of slaying at the tomb of a noted warrior some of a 
hostile race to be his slaves thereafter. After the fall of Troy 

1 Cf. Pottier's useful Ltcythes blancs\4Uiqu( s. 


the captives were distributed among the chiefs ; but it was not 
thought right to deprive the dead Achilles of his share, and 
Polyxena was offered up at his tomb. According to the in- 
genious theory of a modern savantj 1 the terra-cottas so commonly 
found in tombs in some parts of Greece are the successors and 
substitutes of these living victims, placed like their bodies in 
the grave of one who would in his future life require servants 
and companions. Every one knows that the custom of sati, 
whereby a wife is burned on the same pyre with her dead 
husband, is barely extinct in India. 

And the care for the dead did not by any means cease at 
their burial. They had to be constantly tended thereafter, 
their bones preserved from violence, and their tombs from 
spoliation ; and at certain seasons food and drink had to be 
brought them and left by their tomb for their use. 

The belief in the continued need felt by the dead and to be 
supplied by the living was so deep that even Christianity has 
been unable wholly to abolish it, though in modern days roses 
take the place at tombs of the more substantial offerings of 
old times. A couple of passages from Lucian 2 will serve to 
summarise the ancient feeling : TreTuo-TevKavi yovv ras xpvxas 
dva7r€[XTTOfX€va<s KOLTU)0ev 8ei7rv€tv /xev <j)<$ oiov re 7r€pL7rero{xevas 
rrjv Kvicrav kolI tov kolttvov, 7tlv€lv 8e dirb fioSpov to /xeAt- 
Kparov. rpe(fiOVTai Tats Trap' rjixuv xocus kol tols KaOayt- 

£op.€VOl<> €7Tl TGJV Ta<f>(0V' (OS Ct TW p) €L7] KOTaAeAet/A/XeVOS VTTtp 

yrjs <f>ikos rj avyytvrjs olctltos ovtos vckoos kcu At/xtuTTWv ev 

aVTOt? TT0\.lT€V€Tai. 

It is true that the state of opinion which gave birth to Greek 
burial-customs did not persist unchanged into historical times. 
Later there was spread abroad a general belief in the existence 
of a realm of spirits, presided over by Hades and Persephone, 
and hidden somewhere in the deepest recesses of the earth. 
At least the common people believed in the Styx and the 
Cocytus, the dog Cerberus and the Elysian Fields, and the 
ferry- man Charon, who conveyed souls. They even gave the 
dead an obol to pay to Charon as his fee ; but this very fact 
shows how persistent the belief in the connection of the future 
life with the body was, for it was in the actual mouths of 
corpses (the mouth being the Greek purse) that the piece of 
money was placed and left. The same men who supposed that 
souls went into a far country, yet believed heroes to hover 

1 Rayet, Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1875. 

2 Lucian, Charon, 22 ; De Luctu, 9. 


about the spot on which they were buried, like the virgins of 
Leuctra, who appeared to Pelopidas when he happened to sleep 
at the spot where they were buried, or like the sages whose 
tombs became oracular. The upper stratum of belief was 
occupied by those notions of religion and a future state which 
were sanctioned by poetry, and art, and public cultus ; but in 
the background still lurked many feelings which had arisen 
at a time when the grave was regarded by all as a dwelling- 
place, and the dead as by no means inaccessible to the favours 
and the requests of the survivors. 

M. Fustel de Coulanges 1 has well shown how on this fact 
of the continual presence of the dead and their need of care 
and nourishment family life was, in early times, to a large 
extent based. It was regarded as essential that the offerings 
to the dead should not come from the hands of strangers but 
from their own descendants. Hence the continuity of families 
and a strong tie of kindred to bind them together. The family 
vault, where dwelt the spirits of the ancestors of each family, 
became a sacred place ; the daily care of the dead, falling to 
the lot of the eldest male in each family, made him appear 
not only as the head and ruler of the community, but as its 
priest ; as one who was in constant communication with the 
unseen world, and who could confer on or withhold from other 
members of it the favour of the departed. And such favour 
was regarded as of great value : the dead were supposed to be 
constantly interfering in the affairs of the living and still work- 
ing their will in the world. As M. de Coulanges perspicuously 
puts it, there was a constant exchange of services between 
living and dead : the latter receiving from their descendants 
physical protection with food and drink, and giving in return 
the advantage of countenance and assistance in all the trans- 
actions of life. 

It seems then that the favours asked of the dead were 
substantial enough. The exact nature of the ritual with which 
ancestors were approached would not be told to any stranger ; 
but if it were told, none could rightly and duly perform it ex- 
cept the regular and authorised exponent : the deified ancestor 
would resent as an outrage any attempt on the part of an 
alien to win his favour and support. 

Closely connected in cultus with the family tomb was the 
family hearth. In the Homeric house this was situate in 

1 La Cite Antique. The views of this writer are confirmed by the 
veneration paid to ancestors in our day in China and the East generally. 


the fxeyapov, or feeding-hall of the men. And when, in later 
and more civilised times, cooking was no longer done there 
but was removed to a separate kitchen, a hearth, k(r\apa or 
€o-ria, was still retained for sacred purposes, at all events in 
the nouses of wealthy families. To Hestia was sacrificed the 
first portion of what was . eaten or drunk ; and in addition 
frequent small sacrifices of oil or wine or incense were offered, 
partly to Hestia and partly to the family divinities, whoever 
they might be, more especially the deified ancestors. And on 
occasion of all the family festivals or events — a birth, a marriage, 
a death — this altar was wreathed with flowers or glowed with 

Among the Romans the conjoint worship of the Lares and 
Vesta 1 seems to have been of the essence of the family religion. 
But among the Greeks, and especially their wealthier and more 
ancient families, this simple worship was united with that of 
some of the greater and more generally recognised divinities. 

The third native source of Greek religion was naturalism. 
It is most difficult to say at what time or at what stage of 
civilisation the worship of deities of nature arose. Recognition 
of supernatural powers in the world, unless the barest animism 
(with which no doubt such recognition begins), implies feelings of 
wonder at the marvellous order of the universe, and a sense of 
the dependence of man on higher forces than his own, which 
at once raise the barbarian to a higher level, and open before 
him great possibilities of progress. And on the day on which 
a rude tribe recognise that there are greater powers in the un- 
seen world than fetishes and their dead ancestors, they mount 
a high step in the scale which leads to civilisation. When or 
how this step was taken by the Greeks it is not easy to decide. 
Mr. Herbert Spencer, as is well known, supposes all religion to 
grow by processes of development from ancestor worship. But 
his attempts to explain how this could be have failed ; and his 
theory meets with but little acceptance. It is in fact a revival 
of the teaching of the Alexandrian Euhemerus, who taught 
that all the deities were but deified ancestors \ nor does it seem 
consistent with the evidence. To go further into the question 
would take us too far from our immediate subject ; and it is 
the less necessary, because among the Greeks as known to us 
the worship of deities and of heroes alike was fully organised 
and recognised. 

It is mainly to the comparative philologists that we owe the 

1 Virg. jEn. v. 744. 


exposition of the great part taken by the worship of the powers 
of nature in the various branches of the Aryan race. By the 
help of the sacred literature of India, of great though uncertain 
antiquity, writers like Kuhn and Max Miiller have succeeded 
in showing that Greek mythology, like the Greek language, is 
a branch of a great tree, and cannot be properly understood 
except by comparison with other branches, and especially of 
the branch which nourished in the sacred valley of the Ganges. 
Some thirty years ago the opinion was common among scholars 
that by help of the Vedas Greek mythology could be satisfac- 
torily analysed. But the school of Aryan comparative mytho- 
logy failed in their explanations to pass a certain point, and 
by a natural reaction their key, which was once over-valued, 
has since been under-valued. Their philological method has 
been of late years almost neglected. Aryan mythology has 
given way to anthropology ; yet it is certain that the debt 
owed by the science of religion to comparative mythologists 
is no light one. They opened the door through which we all 
pass. And after making all deductions, it remains clear that 
the study of Aryan religion in the comparative spirit has 
greatly aided our understanding of Greek religion in particular. 

Attempts have been made to explain the mythology of all the 
European nations as a series of tales based on a literal acceptance 
of poetical or figurative language wherein the primitive Aryans 
described the course of the sun through the heavens. To Sir 
George Cox, and in a more moderate degree to Professor Max 
Miiller, almost all the myths of Greece are meteorological, and 
merely embody in a thousand forms the phenomena of the sun- 
rise and the dawn, the daily voyage of the sun, his victory 
over the clouds and his sinking to rest, on which the eyes of 
our primitive forefathers are supposed to have dwelt with never- 
ceasing wonder and delight. Professor Kuhn, another great 
authority on the subject of Vedic mythology, has a less narrow 
circle of ideas, and less rigid canons of interpretation, but to 
him also myth has to a great extent arisen from contemplation 
of the facts of the world around us. 

There are necessarily great dangers inherent in the system of 
interpreting myths by the help of comparative philology. Thus 
the comparative philologist is obliged to pay attention rather 
to the names of deities than to their functions when he is seek- 
ing to trace their origin. But in the case of the Greek deities, 
of whom alone I am at present speaking, it is very difficult 
indeed to know the true name at all. Among the Greeks, 
epithet frequently passed into name, and name into epithet ; 


and in many cases we cannot say which is which. Thus in the 
case of Phoebus Apollo, we regard Apollo as the real name of 
the god, because we know the meaning of Phoebus, " the bright 
one," while we are not sure of the meaning of the word Apollo. 
The chief deity of Arcadia, considered usually as a form of 
Persephone, was commonly called Despoena, " Mistress," but 
she had another name of so sacred a character that Pausanias 
does not think it proper to repeat it. Kuhn, however, in dis- 
regard of that fact, tries to derive the name Despoena directly 
from Dasapatni, a personification of the water which falls from 
the clouds in rain. Thus the liberty exercised by the writers 
I have named in choosing any name or even epithet of a deity 
for which to find an origin in Sanskrit gives them a freedom 
which sometimes degenerates into license. 

And chis license is rendered easier and more fatal by the 
vague and nebulous character of all mythology, of Greek 
mythology in a notable degree. Every deity has several forms 
and several functions, and so can be regarded in various aspects. 
We may consider the root idea of Athena to be the upper air, 
or the lightning, or moisture, or the dawn ; we may consider 
Hera to stand for air or earth, and Hermes to be a wind-god or 
a dawn-god or a god of productiveness and increase. Any of 
the aspects mentioned might well in the case of these deities 
be taken, not merely as an aspect, but as the principal or root 
idea ; and the Sanskritic deities are decidedly even less fixed 
and defined in character than the Greek. Thus it is evident 
that a writer endowed even with moderate ingenuity need 
seldom be at a loss if he is desirous of connecting any Greek 
deity or any Greek mythological story with some Vedic proto- 

It is, however, unnecessary to be sceptical as to the validity 
of all the identifications of the philological school. Some of 
them are generally accepted by mythologists, others are regarded 
as at all events defensible in the present condition of know- 
ledge. Let us briefly examine some of the most firmly estab- 
lished among them. 

A feature in Greek religion, which seems to point back to 
the time when their race had not been differentiated from the 
original stock is the acknowledgment of the supremacy of Zeus. 
It is now generally allowed that the Greek Zeus finds a parallel 
to some extent in functions as well as in name in the Sanskrit 
Dyaus and the Latin Jovis ; and that among other Indo-Euro- 
pean races we find a corresponding deity, a deity who in a 
physical aspect represents the heaven, and in a moral aspect is 


father and ruler alike of gods and men. In the Vedas Dyaus 
is the sky, and at the same time, by Prithivi the earth god- 
dess, the universal parent. But in some ways this primeval 
pair may he compared rather with the Uranus and Gaea of the 
Hesiodic theogony than with the far more fully humanised 
Zeus and Hera ; and in some of his functions, notably as 
deity of the weather and the thunderstorm, Zeus may better 
be likened to India. 

There are a few other cases in which, with a greater or less 
degree of confidence, we may affirm connection of name as well 
as identity of function between a Greek deity and a Sanskrit 
prototype. Among the clearest instances of such equation is 
that of the Sanskrit Ushas, the dawn, with the Greek Eos and 
the Latin Aurora. The Indian Varuna also, a personification 
of the overarching heaven, is regarded by most philologists as 
equivalent, not only in function but also in name, with the 
Greek Uranus. But even in the case of Eos and of Uranus 
Greek mythologic fancy takes a way of its own, and the tales 
told of those deities in Greece have not commonly a parallel 
in the sacred literature of India. 

When we attempt to proceed further with parallelism we 
fall into great uncertainties, and find philologist differing from 
philologist. Twenty or thirty years ago much importance was 
attached to the able attempt of Kuhn to connect with Vedic lore 
the Greek tale of Prometheus, who hid fire stolen from heaven 
in a hollow reed, in order to bestow it upon men. The name 
of Prometheus was connected with pramantha, a word used in 
late Sanskrit to designate the upright fire-stick, by turning 
which upon another piece of wood the early people of India 
produced fire, as do still some savage tribes of men. But it is 
now understood 1 that the Greek Prometheus and the Sanskrit 
pramantha are not philologically connected, so that any parallel 
which may exist between Sanskritic and Greek tales of the 
origin of fire among men is likely to arise from parallel work- 
ings of the mythopceic instinct in Greece and the Far East, 
rather than from the bringing into Greece by the invading 
Hellenes of tales already fixed in their primeval mythology. 
And indeed the story of Prometheus, as it stands in Hesiod, 
bears very obvious traces not only of moral purpose, but of 
poetic invention, and it would be strange indeed if an ethical 

1 My authority is Professor A. A. Macdonell, to whose kindness I owe 
valuable information in regard to the present state of philological opinion 
in these matters. 


parable could boast of transmission through uncounted genera- 
tions of migratory semi-barbarians. 

In fact we commonly find that attempts to connect the 
mythology of the Greeks with that of the Yedas fail, because 
the genius of the Greeks ran from very early times in a different 
line from that taken by their remotely connected cousins who 
settled in the valley of the Indus. Among migratory peoples 
all tradition must be in a state of flux in the absence of written 
record, and there is no reason to think that the Hellenes had 
developed any system of writing before they settled in the 
land which bore their name. And of all tradition that which 
concerns the gods is perhaps the most fluid. Religious myths 
survive when attached to cultus ; but otherwise, since no one 
expects or desires self-consistency in them, they constantly 
change in form, and no one accepts them unless they happen 
to impress his imagination or to satisfy his sense of the fitness 
of things. 

Thus we can scarcely be surprised to find that where there 
is some similarity of names between a personification of San- 
skrit literature and a personage of Hellenic myth there is com- 
monly no identity of function, or agreement in tales told 
of the beings bearing those names. And when we find, as 
is perhaps more often the case, a similar tale recorded in the 
early books of India and the works of the Greek theologians 
and logographers, it is told of personifications which have no 
connection, so far as we can trace by the aid of philology, with 
one another. 

We may begin with a few apparent similarities of name. 
The name of Hermes, the Greek god of the wind of dawn, 
and of fruitfulness in cattle, has been connected, with 
very doubtful propriety, with the Sanskrit Sarama or the 
Sarameyas. Sarama is the dog who is messenger of Indra 
in seeking his lost cows. The Sarameyas are the two watch- 
dogs of Yama, the god of death. With the former of these 
beings we may perhaps compare the wind which wanders at 
dawn and drives the clouds, which are in the early Indian 
literature compared to cows. And perhaps as psychopompos 
Hermes may be compared to the twin-hounds of Yama, 
since in this character he acts in post-Homeric times as guide 
and guardian of the flocks of souls as they journey to the 
dark land of Hades. Also, the dog is naturally regarded 
from the point of view of his voice, as the bellower; and 
Hermes, whether as the wind which shouts among the trees, 
or as the god of heralds, is in Greek lore the deity who is 


endowed with a loud voice, and who in the Homeric hymn is 
said to have driven away the cows of Apollo. But there are 
other functions of Hermes in which he offers no parallel to the 
Sarameyas, as the inventor of the lyre, and the god of fruitful- 
ness in cattle. Other identifications, based on similarity of 
name, such as the assimilation to the Erinnyes of Saranyu, 
the dark storm-cloud which in the beginning wandered in 
space and became, in the form of a mare, the mother of 
the Asvins, and the assimilation of the Gandharvas to the 
Centaurs, may or may not be defensible on the ground of 
comparative philology. This is a matter which the philologists 
must settle among themselves. But to the comparative myco- 
logist such assimilations bring very little light, since the root- 
idea attaching to the Indian name is in each case different 
from the root-idea attaching to the Greek name. 

More interesting and instructive are the cases in which we 
find similarity of tale in Indian and Greek mythology, though 
the tales attach to different deities. 

Such for example are those tales recording the victory of 
light over darkness or of the sun over cloud, in the form of a 
battle between a god and a monster or dragon, which seem to 
belong in some form to every country and every nation. In 
Sanskrit we read of the victory of Indra over the great dragon 
Ahi ; and in every nation derived from the Aryan source the 
story has its repetition or its parallel. In Greek it appears in 
many forms. First we have the overthrow of Typhoeus by the 
lightning of Zeus j then the shooting of the great serpent Pytho 
by the sun-god Apollo; then the destruction of the many-headed 
hydra by the solar hero Herakles, or of the mis-shapen Chimsera 
by the solar hero Bellerophon. In fact most of the exploits of 
Herakles may be made to yield to this interpretation, though 
to some of them explanations of other kinds may be more 

It is a notable fact that the resemblances which can be traced 
between the ancient religion of India and that of Hellas are as 
considerable, perhaps even more considerable than the resem- 
blances observable between the religion of the Greeks and that 
of the Romans, although the languages of these two latter 
peoples are quite akin, and they certainly held together long after 
both separated from the stock which moved into India. The 
mythology to be found in the Latin poets is of course merely 
borrowed from Hellas j but the primitive religion of the Romans 
has quite a different cast from that of the Greeks. These facts 
are significant, and show that after all Greek mythology is a 



result of the same forces and the fruit of the same history which 
made the Greeks in other matters that which we know them to 
have been. Certain tendencies no doubt they shared with all 
Aryan peoples ; but the way in which those tendencies worked 
was distinct and national. 

I have spoken of the Greeks as a race. It may occur to some 
students that it would have been well to separate in treatment 
the various Greek stems, Achaean, Dorian, Ionian, and speak of 
the religion of each separately. This, however, is a task of 
peculiar difficulty ; and there is nothing in which the historians 
are less agreed than in their assignment of various deities to the 
various sections of the Greek race. Greek religion can fairly 
well be treated with reference to localities, and this presently 
I hope to attempt ; but to treat it with reference to stems and 
tribes is far less easy, and in the present state of our knowledge 
might lead to a quagmire. Is Apollo mainly Dorian or Ionian ? 
Is Athena mainly Achaean or Ionian 1 Such questions as these 
admit of no simple and definite reply : we can answer them but 
partially, and then by examining the localities rather than the 
tribes which were associated with their worship. 

In place then of speaking of the religion of the Greek stems, 
I prefer to speak of Hellenic religion ; and the religious 
tendencies of the Greeks were in a measure limited and directed 
by the foreign influences to which they were subjected. As 
they lay nearest of all the nations of Europe to Egypt and 
Babylon, Phoenicia and Asia Minor, the old civilisations of the 
Eastern Mediterranean bore upon them with more force than on 
the Latin or the Celt. To these foreign influences we must 
turn our attention before attempting further to trace the rise 
of the Hellenic Pantheon. 



It must be considered a total impossibility, in the present state 
of our knowledge, to draw a hard and fast line between the 
native and the adopted elements in Greek religion. To take 
but a single example : the character and ethnology of the 
Pelasgi are still matters of warm dispute ; and until it is decided 
whether they were of Greek or non-Greek stock, we cannot 
possibly determine whether the Pelasgic elements in Greek 


religion were native or imported. It is in fact more than 
probable that the Greeks, like the ruling races of Asia Minor, 1 
were in blood much mixed with the earlier inhabitants of the 
laud, and that only the aristocracy were of anything like pure 
Aryan blood. This would account for the fact that the Homeric 
mythology, which is essentially of the aristocracy, is freer from 
extraneous elements than the mythology of the Greeks of his- 
toric times. 

All that we can attempt in the present chapter is to set 
forth some of those elements of Greek religion which seem in 
a more marked degree to belong either (1) to the races, mostly 
Canaanite and Semitic, of Asia Minor and Syria; or, (2) to 
the primitive inhabitants of Greece itself. Even here, we 
cannot hope for a clear line of distinction ; for if, as is most 
likely, the pre-Greek people of Hellas were of the Canaanite 
stock, they would be closely related in blood to the earlier 
races of Syria and Asia Minor, and so presumably would re- 
semble them in their religious notions. In that case it will be 
of course quite impossible to say whether the elements of Greek 
religion, which seem to be non-Aryan, were taken from the 
Canaanite tribes of Greece proper or of Asia Minor and the 

Professor Ramsay, whose knowledge of ancient Asia Minor 
is undisputed, has maintained 2 that in that region the female 
deities belong originally to the earlier stratum of probably 
Canaanite stock, who traced descent through the mother 
and not through the father, while the male deities belonged 
mostly to the conquering tribes of Aryan blood, who in the 
course of the second millennium b.c. became dominant in 
Asia Minor, to the Phrygians, Carians, Lycians and the like. 
The suggestion has a high degree of probability. Long ago 
Professor Ernst Curtius ventured on a similar view in regard 
to the Greeks. He has maintained that the great goddesses 
of Greece were mostly of Canaanite or Syrian lineage, whereas 
the male deities seem rather to belong to the tribes of Hellenic 

If we examine the facts of the contact between Greek religion 
and that of the aboriginal races of Asia Minor, so far as those 
facts can be recovered, we shall find that they point at the least 
to a strong influence of the conquered on the conquering race. 

The peoples of central Asia Minor were very much devoted 

1 See my Nexo Chapters in Greek History, p. 30. 
1 Journal of Hellenic Stud. ix. 351. 


to religion. In some places their whole political organisation 
was based on priestly system. The high priest was the ruling 
monarch, the lands belonged to the deities, and the people were 
more or less temple-slaves. Such communities were flourishing 
when history first reaches Asia Minor, and even in the times 
of Roman dominion were not extinct. The high priest of Olba 
in Cilicia, for instance, was governor of all the country about 
that city. The various cities called Hierapolis or Hieropolis 
held religious communities of strict organisation ; and the 
deities who ruled over these religious societies in Asia were 
in most cases female, and had a marked relationship one to the 
other. They were lunar goddesses or deities of that moisture 
which the ancients subjected to the dominion of the moon, and 
regarded as the source and secret of life and growth in the 
world of plants and of animals. Such was Mylitta of Babylon, 
such Atergatis the great goddess of Carchemish, the capital of 
the widely spread Hittite race, such was Omphale of Lydia, 
such Cybele of the Phrygian coast. And with this powerful 
moon-goddess was joined in various districts an effeminate sun- 
god, acting as a sort of consort to her majesty. Thus Attis 
was connected with Cybele, Sandan with Mylitta, Bassareus 
with Omphale. 

When the Greeks came in swarms to found colonies in Asia 
Minor, they adopted as a rule for their own the deity to whom 
belonged the soil on which they settled. The religious organi- 
sation they accepted, no doubt with modifications, and the 
temple legends they treasured up. Even the barbarous Asiatic 
images, which represented locally the majesty of the deity, 
they did not throw aside, but installed them in a place of 
honour, in temples built by their own architects. The only 
thing the Greeks usually completely changed was the name 
of the deity. Just as Herodotus, in describing the deities of 
Egyptians or Persians or Scythians, calls them all by good 
Greek names, just as Tacitus speaks of the Germans as wor- 
shipping deities whom he calls Mercurius, Hercules, and Mars, 
so the Greeks naturally thought and spoke of the local Asiatic 
deities whom they adopted as identical with Greek deities 
whom they brought with them. Thus it came about that a 
barbarous, many-breasted simulacrum at Ephesus bore the 
name of the Greek virgin goddess Artemis, and had attached 
to her service an entirely oriental cortege of priestesses and 
eunuchs, presided over by a priest called the Essen or King- 
Bee. And the same or nearly the same deity, who was called 
at Ephesus Artemis, was at Samos called Hera. Thus the 


thoroughly Greek cities of Asia Minor imbibed Oriental religious 
beliefs and legends, and transmitted them to the mainland of 
Greece in connection with the names of deities of the Greek 

These considerations only prove that Greek goddesses were 
in Asia orientalised. But it is very likely that a similar pro- 
cess had gone on at an earlier time in Greece itself, and that 
Artemis and Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had long before 
Teceived the impress of the religion of the pre-Greek races. 
For example, the Greeks always thought of Athena as armed 
and warlike. Yet the notion of an armed woman seems quite 
foreign to all we know of Hellenic manners. On the other 
hand armed women, Ashtoreth, Omphale, the Amazons, and 
so forth were quite usual in the mythological tales of Asia 

It is remarkable that the only deity of whose cultus we have 
olear traces among the remains of the pre-historic city of 
Mycenae is a female being of Aphrodisiac type, who is associated 
with the dove, and in many ways calls to mind both Atergatis 
and the Babylonian Mylitta. In the earliest strata of remains 
on the Acropolis of Athens and elsewhere rude figures of a 
similar goddess have been found. It would indeed be rash to 
say that the Aryan Hellenes had no native goddesses. Accord- 
ing to analogy they must have had a goddess of love to corres- 
pond to the Teutonic Freya, and beings like Dione of Dodona 
and Hera of Argos seem to belong to the most fundamental 
part of Greek religion. Yet we can scarcely doubt that the 
female side of the Greek Pantheon owed far more to the 
influence of the neighbouring races than did the male side, if 
we except Herakles and Dionysus. 

We can also discern in the fabric of developed Greek religion, 
besides elements borrowed from tribes of non- Aryan blood, 
elements which attach less to any tribe than to certain localities. 

Among the local cults of Greece are many which were 
probably handed down from race to race, as successive waves 
of population swept over the land. Mountains and rivers are 
notable for retaining their names unchanged from age to age, 
many of our own rivers, for example, bearing Celtic names 
which the Teutonic conquerors preserved ; and with their 
names such natural features preserved the character attributed 
to them by pre-historic peoples. We can scarcely doubt that 
such a spot as the sacred cave at Delphi, which was said before 
the coming of Apollo to have been an ancient oracle of Ge, was 
already marked out as a sacred spot by the primitive races who 


dwelt in Greece long before the Hellenes. And when we read 
of the wells called the Palici in Sicily into which offerings were 
thrown, and of sacred trees like the oak of Zeus at Dodona, and 
the olive of Athena at Athens, we cannot but suppose that 
these objects inherited their sacred character from a primitive 
age of pure fetishism. It is, however, impossible to verify such 
surmises as these or to establish them on a sure basis by quoting 
ancient authorities, since Greek tradition does not go back to 
the time of the first coming of the Greek stocks into the 
country which was to be their home. Further treatment of 
this subject we must postpone to the chapter dealing with sacred 

Besides the influence exerted upon the Greek goddesses by 
the early peoples of Asia Minor and Greece, we can trace an 
influence which worked in historical times on the roads of 
commerce, especially in the case of Aphrodite. The Greeks 
were convinced that Aphrodite came to Greece from Cyprus. 
Herodotus tells us 1 that the cultus at Paphos was founded 
from Ascalon, a city of Southern Syria. If this were true, 
we must expect, as Tiele points out, 2 that the Cyprian goddess 
would resemble rather the Ashera of the Canaanites than the 
Ashtoreth of the Phoenicians. Yet when the Greeks became 
familiar with Cyprus, it was already largely in the hands of 
the Phoenicians, and we must suppose that the worship at 
Paphos was modified by the flourishing cult of the Sidonian 
Astarte or Ashtoreth. The worship of Ashtoreth was, to our 
knowledge, introduced into Athens by Phoenician merchants, 
and no doubt it made its way elsewhere also, and influenced 
that of her Greek parallel, Aphrodite. 

With Aphrodite came to Greece, as it had gone with Astarte 
to Cyprus, the cultus of Adonis, the effeminate Syrian sun-god. 
The myth of the death of Adonis under the tusks of the wild 
boar seems to be an attempt at explaining the rapid death of 
the sweet vegetation and flowers of spring in Syria, under the 
fierce heat of the sun of summer. But no myth, even among 
those native to their country, was more generally accepted 
among Greeks than the tale of Aphrodite and Adonis, or more 
brightly embellished with poetry and sculpture. 

Of late years vigorous attempts have been made to prove 
not merely that the cultus of Aphrodite in Greece proper was 
original and Hellenic, but even that it was from Greece rather 

1 Herod, i. 105. 

2 Revue de V Hist, des Religions, iii. 169, &c. 


than from the East that the cultus of the Paphian goddess 
came to Cyprus. These views have been carried to extreme 
length by Knmann, 1 who does all he can to minimise Phoenician 
influence, and particularly Phoenician religious influence in 
Greece. He tries to show that the cultus of Aphrodite came 
to Cyprus from Peloponnesus by way of Cythera, and that 
Herodotus is quite wrong in deriving the Paphian cult from 
Ascalon ; that Cinyras was a Greek hero, and his goddess a 
primitive Greek moon-goddess. The arguments of Enmann are 
mainly taken from comparative philology, and he almost ignores 
the mass of evidence acquired in recent years from the tombs 
and temples of ancient Cyprus ; he also treats the question as 
if the only two alternatives before the historian were a pure 
Greek or a pure Phoenician origin of the Aphrodite cultus. Of 
course the probability is that there were in that cultus both 
Greek and Phoenician elements, besides other elements derived 
from the primitive inhabitants of Asia Minor and Cyprus, who 
were probably of Canaanite stock. It is impossible therefore 
to accede to the views of those who regard Enmann's polemic 
as victorious, though it may well serve to warn us against the 
danger of carrying too far views such as those of Curtius. 

In consequence of one of those curious processes of syncretism 
of which the history of religion is full, the myths which attached 
to Aphrodite in Greece were not mostly of Syrian origin but 
came from Asia Minor. In fact, one apparently Phoenician tale 
about Aphrodite which the Greeks accepted, of her riding, as 
a moon-goddess should, across the sea on the back of a bull, 
and landing in Crete, they transferred to Europa ; but of 
Aphrodite they told the tales which belonged to the kindred 
goddesses of the districts of Asia Minor. The Homeric Hymn 
and the Iliad lead the way by telling of the amours carried on 
at the foot of Ida in the Troad between Aphrodite and Anchises, 
and the favour shown by Aphrodite to Paris is but another 
form of the same story. The strong attachment which in 
Homer unites Aphrodite to the country of the Phrygians and 
Trojans shows that, at all events in the country where the 
Homeric poems were composed, the Asiatic origin of Aphrodite 
was accepted. 

Two of the great goddesses of Asia Minor were adopted by 
the Greeks. Of these one is Leto or Latona, whose original 
home appears to be Phrygian or Lycian. 2 But Leto is even in 

1 Kypros, und Ursprung der Aphrodite. 

2 As to Leto, see Ramsay in Joiwn. Hell, Stud. iv. 375. 


Homer but a shadowy personage, and in the later mythology 
she almost disappears, though there were statues of her by cele- 
brated artists. The other is Cybele, whose cultus was carried 
very earl} 7- from Phrygia to Crete, and there incorporated with 
the tales of the birth and childhood of Zeus, which specially 
belonged to that island. It was, however, only at a later time 
that Cybele really found a home in the cities of Greece proper. 

A rather close parallel to the history of the spread in Greece 
of the cultus of Aphrodite, is offered by the history of the cultus 
of Herakles. As Aphrodite came from Ascalon and Sidon, so 
Herakles, at least in his Phoenician form, started from Tyre, and 
made his way into Greece, through the trading stations of the 
Semitic merchants. The solar character which attaches to the 
Tyrian Melkarth, Herakles still preserves in Greece. And the 
story told in Greece of his dog who discovered the purple- 
fish, of his voyage to the Atlas mountain, his adventures in 
Spain and the like seem to be of Phoenician origin. Other tales 
told of him, such as his rescue of Hermione from a sea monster 
at Ilium, and his servitude to the Lydian queen Omphale, seem 
to be derived from Asia Minor. But the case of Herakles 
radically differs from that of Aphrodite, inasmuch as there was 
in the myths told about him a very notable Hellenic element. 
Indeed, so many are the tales told of Herakles, and so vast the 
field over which his activity is said to have extended, that we 
>can scarcely avoid the belief, that many Greek tribes had a 
hero of their own, and that they were all absorbed by the 
spreading fame of the great Hellenic hero, as rivulets flowing 
from every hill and marsh lose themselves in a great river 
flowing by. 

Of Dionysus, the other important Greek male deity, whose 
non-Hellenic origin is generally allowed, we will treat in the 
■chapter which deals with orgiastic cults. 



Greek myths may be classified, not only according to the source 
whence they seem to derive, but also according to their contents 
and meaning. Such classification is no doubt a very difficult 
task, in many cases an impossible task, since the myths, as they 
reach us, are often compounded out of a number of elements, 


and the primitive meaning so overlaid with subsequent growth 
as to be invisible. All that we shall here attempt is to single 
out a few myths the meaning of which is on the surface of 
things pretty clear, in order to use them as illustrations of the 
different processes through which the mythopceic faculty of the 
Greeks went in the construction of their scheme of mythology. 

In an able paper, contributed to the Revue de VHistoire ties 
Religions, 1 M. Jean Reville has shown (1) that no key to 
mythology hitherto proposed will unlock all the myths of 
Greece, and in fact that such a general solvent cannot exist ; 
and (2) that of the various methods of interpretation of myth 
favoured by various schools, all may be used with success upon 
some myths. This seems to me the exact truth. In the great 
majority of cases .there is in myths an setiological element; 
they start in an attempt to explain some existing fact. But 
the facts thus explained are of many classes. In this place I 
shall content myself with giving instances of six classes of 
myth successively: (1) animal, (2) meteorological, (3) physical, 
(4) historical, (5) cultus-myths, (6) ethical. These classes are 
the most important, though doubtless their number might be 

(1) Animal. The beast-stories of Greece belong to the oldest 
stratum of mythology. They are also very abundant. Many 
of the deities are said from various causes to have taken on them 
at some time the form of an animal. And how easily the 
Greek mind, even in historical days, ran on these lines may be 
seen from the passage in the Odyssey (xxii. 240) in which Athena 
sits on the beam of Odysseus' house, in form like a swallow, to 
watch the slaying of the suitors. Later still, Zeus was supposed 
to have appeared to Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, 
as a serpent. 

The metamorphoses of Zeus are usually the accompaniment 
of his amours. He carried Europa over the sea in the form of 
a bull, and then appeared to her as to Ganymedes in the form 
of an eagle. Leda he approached as a swan, and Hera as a 
cuckoo. Poseidon more than once took the form of a horse, 
and in that shape consorted with Demeter, who had concealed 
her deity in the body of a mare. The nation of the Myrmidons 
was formed from ants, and the proud Cadmean race from the 
teeth of a serpent. In later Greece these crude tales were often 
relegated to the background, and either became themes for art 
or were hidden away as sacred temple legends only to be 

1 Vol. xiii. 


repeated to the initiated. The heroes born of such transforma- 
tions were often the ancestors of great families or clans, and 
this fact gives a clue to their setiological origin. In some 
cases at all events they seem to belong to the totemist stage 
of barbarian life, to that stage in which, as already men- 
tioned, the god of the tribe was in fact commonly a sacred 
animal, from whom the tribe claimed its origin. It is, however, 
not necessary to resort in all cases to this explanation, since the 
mutation of gods and men into animals for trivial reasons is 
quite familiar to the savage imagination. 

(2) Many Greek myths are but a rendering in the form of a 
story of meteorological facts — the continually repeated move- 
ments of stars, alternations of day and night, and the like. For 
example, the wandering Io, who is watched by the hundred eyes 
of Argus until that guardian is slain by Hermes, seems obviously 
the horned moon wandering through heaven under the count- 
less eyes of the stars, which the breath of morning makes pale 
and closes. A very numerous class of myths records in many 
forms and with all possible variations the daily conflict between 
sun and cloud, between fair weather and storm. We can 
scarcely doubt that the terrible Medusa, from whose neck, 
when her head is cut off, spring Pegasus and Chrysaor, is the 
dread storm-cloud sending out wind and lightning. And when 
we read how Hermes, the wind-god, stole the cows of Apollo, 
we scarcely need to compare the Vedas in order to perceive 
that the myth interprets the blowing of clouds across the sky. 
Herakles, again, floating on the sea in a golden bowl, is evidently 
the sun at his setting. But while the meteorological character 
of many Greek myths is evident, there has been among philo- 
logists far too pronounced a tendency to attribute this character 
to Greek myths in general, a tendency carried in the case of 
some writers so far as almost to bring this method of interpre- 
tation into ridicule. 

(3) Other myths give an account of what goes on in the 
physical world. The whole myth of Kora, for instance — her 
descent into the unseen world and her return to the upper air — 
is a thinly veiled account of the processes which go on in the 
case of seed and crop. When we hear the story which tells 
how Apollo slew his beloved Hyacinthus with a discus, we see 
at once that it is only an embodiment in myth of the well- 
known fact that the hot sun of early summer in Greece dries 
up the ground and destroys the tender flowers of spring. 
The Cyclopes again, who in their underground chambers forge 
the thunderbolts of Zeus, are clearly the restless forces of fire 


which dwell under the volcanoes, and occasionally cause fierce 
eruptions. Another group of legends sets forth as the cause 
of volcanic disturbances the restlessness of giants on whom 
the volcanic mountains had been thrown, as Etna on Enceladus, 
to keep them down. 

(4) Some myths again are of a historical character, briefly 
summing up events supposed to have taken place at some 
past time. Thus many of the legends told of Herakles, 
Theseus, and Iolaus probably have a basis in fact. The slaying 
of the Minotaur by Theseus and his wars against the Amazons 
are probably tales containing history if we knew how to ex- 
tract it. Pausanias, speaking of the lake of Pheneus, says that 
it was drained by Herakles by means of a canal, which still 
existed in his time ; and in the same way the walls of Tiryns 
were attributed to the workmanship of the Cyclopes : in both 
cases an existing result was ascribed to mythical causes, be- 
cause those which actually produced it were forgotten. The 
longstanding enmity of the people of Laconia and Messenia 
was translated into myth in the contest between the Dioscuri 
and Idas and Lynceus. !Nor is this mode of explanation con- 
fined to tales of heroes. Rivalries and disputes of deities 
often take in myth the place of the quarrels of the races which 
they respectively protected : the victory of Apollo over Marsyas 
symbolises the supersession of barbarous Phrygian and Lydian 
shepherds' music by that under the patronage of Apollo. The 
contest between Apollo and Herakles for the possession of the 
Delphic tripod is probably a record in mythic form of some 
actual rivalry between the cults of the two ; and especially 
the family legends, recording the birth of the ancestor of the 
race from some deity, usually contain real history, as well as 
mere myth. 

(5) A class of legends on which. light has been thrown of 
late years is the serological cultus-myths. In many of the 
sacred places of Greece, a ritual of great antiquity was practised, 
the meaning of which was lost, so that acts and words of 
worship had no recognised meaning. To a people so intelligent 
and inquisitive as the Greeks such a state of things could not 
be satisfactory. So whether consciously or unconsciously, but 
certainly with no intention of impiety, the priests and officials 
would attach to the rites some story which served to make 
them more intelligible. This method of interpretation of myth 
has been applied by Miss Harrison with considerable success 
to some of the most interesting of the Attic myths, in par- 
ticular to the story of the Daughters of Cecrops, and their 


nursing of the earth-born child Erich thonius. 1 There was at 
the Hersephoria at Athens a curious custom that the two 
Arrhephoric maidens took upon their heads a sacred box, con- 
taining some articles the nature of which was unknown to 
them, and went down by a subterranean passage to a precinct 
not far from that of Aphrodite in the Gardens. There they 
deposited their burdens, and took back something also covered 
up. 2 It seems likely that out of this ceremony arose the myth 
that when Erichthonius was confided to the daughters of Cecrops 
by Athena, he was hidden in a chest which they were forbidden 
to open. Two of them, however, Herse and Agraulos, could 
not restrain their curiosity, and peeping into the chest saw 
there the child entwined by a snake ; and this curiosity was 
punished by their madness and death. The story would 
obviously have a good effect in restraining the curiosity of 
the Arrhephoric girls, and there seems justification for Miss 
Harrison's assertion that it owed its origin to ritual mis- 

Another myth, which is probably ^etiological, is narrated by 
Pausanias in connection with the cultus of Ares at Tegea. The 
deity was termed yvvaiKodolvas, feasted by women, and his 
cult was confined to women. These cults confined to one sex 
are a common fact in most naturalist religions, and we must 
regard as extremely improbable from the historic point of view 
the local story that the cult was established in consequence of 
a victory of the women of Tegea over the Lacedaemonians. It 
is far more likely that the tale sprang out of the cultus than 
that the cultus arose out of the story. 

Sometimes serological legends sprang, not out of cultus, but 
out of representations in art. This was the case, according to 
Milchhoefer with most of the Theban stories attached to the 
Sphinx, 3 a monster which was certainly, so far as art-represen- 
tations go, of Egyptian origin. To cite instances would, how- 
ever, lead us too far. I must content myself with one fact. 
The goddess Hygieia was daughter and constant attendant of 
Asklepius, and appears with him regularly on votive reliefs set 
up to the healing god by votaries whom he had cured. We 
have, however, at Oropus and Khamnus another hero of healing 
who takes the place of Asklepius, and appears in reliefs in the 

1 Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens, p. xxxiii. 

2 Pausanias, i. 27, 3. 

3 Athen. Mittheil. iv. ; cf. Goblet d'Alviella, Migration des Symboles, 


same form, Amphiaraus. 1 And curiously enough, in votive 
reliefs dedicated to Amphiaraus, Hygieia appears by his side. 
A merely artistic association of form has led to her transfer to 
the Amphiaraian cultus. 

(6) There is also among Greek myths a class which may best 
be termed ethical, a class much more abundantly represented 
in some other mythologies than in that of Hellas. As the 
meteorological myth starts from astronomic fact, and the cultus 
myth from the facts of cultus, so the ethical myth starts from 
the practical necessities of life. It springs from a human need, 
either social or spiritual, and is adapted to satisfy it. 

We need not consider the devising of these tales as a religious 
fraud ; rather it is the result of an instinctive perception of man- 
kind as to the expedient, an action of the heart on the imagina- 
tion with little mediation of the brain. Thus in Argos they 
made a slaughter of dogs, Kvv6cf>ovTi<s kopTi), in the dog-days of 
summer, and justified the proceeding by a myth ; but it is fair 
to find the real motive in sanitary precaution. So the whole 
athletic training of the Greeks, though pursued in later times 
for health and pleasure, was always regarded as under the 
special patronage of the gods, and hence arose myths, how at 
the first Olympic festival Apollo had defeated Ares in boxing, 
and outrun Hermes in the stadium. But in many cases the 
ethical myths resulted from deliberate intention. We may 
instance the later story of Prometheus as told by Hesiod, and 
the proposal of Plato in the Republic to teach the citizens of 
his ideal state how the Gods mingled different metals, gold y 
silver, copper, and iron with common earth, in order thence to 
form various classes of the community. 

Besides stories which can be explained, there will always be 
a certain number which will defy rational analysis ; and it 
may fairly be supposed that some at least of these date from 
extreme antiquity, and are part of that mesh of meaningless 
or almost meaningless stories which seem to please thorough 
barbarians in all regions, such as the African beast-stories and 
those silly and never-ending repetitions which delight the rude 
natives of Siberia. The proportion which these mere tradi- 
tional legends bear to myths based on symbolism and purpose is 
a matter as to which opinions may greatly differ, nor is it safe 
to pronounce a decided opinion on the subject until it has been 
more thoroughly worked out. 

Out of elements thus borrowed from many sources, and amid 

1 Athen. Mittheil. xviii. 254. 


a cloud of myths good and bad, we see the Pantheon of the 
Greek gradually emerging, and constantly gaining in clearness 
and consistency. On the whole the progress is constantly in 
the direction of the higher anthropomorphism. 



In Greek religion, in early times, two processes were constantly 
going on, one of decay and corruption, the other of growth 
and progress. On the one hand the religious conceptions of 
the more pure-blooded of the Greeks were constantly being 
mixed and adulterated with local, foreign, and barbarous ele- 
ments ; on the other hand many cults were rising in character, 
as the nation progressed in civilisation, and becoming more fit 
to embody the highest national sentiments. Amid constant 
changes and developments, by degrees was formed something 
like a national Pantheon. But beside the religion of the 
educated, of the wealthy families, the poets, and the artists, 
there survived a number of cults of a more primitive and less 
civilised character. It is safe to say that, on the whole, so 
long as Greece grew, her religion grew also, and local cults 
had far more tendency to rise above than to sink below their 
traditions. At Eleusis, for example, we can certainly trace a 
rise in the character of the teaching from early times, a rise 
which seems to have continued in this case even into the times 
of Greek decline. 

Thus in most cases it is far safer to suppose that the national 
type and cultus of one of the deities of Greece would be 
developed from an amalgamation of local cults than that the 
local cults of that deity should be degraded offshoots of a 
common stem of tradition. In the case of Apollo, for instance, 
Delos and Delphi, Athens and Lycia, all contribute elements 
towards the formation of a national or standard idea of the 
god. We can scarcely suppose that the contrary process has 
predominated, that a pure deity of Apolline functions brought 
with them by the Hellenes when they came to their seats in 
Europe has been variously and locally corrupted according to 
the tendencies of the several localities where he obtained 

This is of course one of the main differences between Aryan 


and Semitic, between natural and positive religions. Islam, 
for instance, which is the clearest type of positive religions, can 
degenerate, but it cannot change its character without ceasing 
in some degree to be Islam. A reform in it is a reversion to 
the original type. Thus it is cut off from the natural processes 
of growth and development, and preserved by the spirit of its 
founder, comparatively unchanged, amid the changes going on 
round it. Aryan and natural religions, on the other hand, are 
perpetually growing and constantly changing their forms. The 
processes of natural selection and survival of the fittest go on 
freely in their case, and they rise and decay just like other 

I propose to endeavour to trace in summary fashion, first, 
the multiform character of Greek local cult, and then the 
fashion in which the national Pantheon emerged from it. 

The common notion in regard to Greek paganism, a notion 
most superficial and incorrect, is that the Greeks in general, 
throughout their history, accepted a certain hierarchy of deities 
as the ruling powers in the world, and were quite at one as 
to the provinces of these deities, their parentage, and their 
relations one to the other. This view is fostered by modern 
dictionaries of mythology. But it is quite mistaken. It is only 
by degrees that anything approaching a national Pantheon 
arose in Greece, the mythologic views of tribes and cities 
becoming merged to a certain extent in the general Hellenic 

An instructive parallel may be found in the history of the 
Greek dialects. In early Greece each town or district, Argos, 
Elis, Bceotia, Euboea, had a special dialect ; but by degrees 
these were superseded in the case of educated people by the 
literary dialect which arose at Athens, though they still sur- 
vived on the tongues of the country people. In the same way, 
by degrees something like a national Pantheon arose for poetry 
and art, for Delphi and Athens and Olympia; but the local 
cults out of which it took its rise still survived in the temples 
and oracles of Greece, even to the days of the rise of Chris- 
tianity. Indeed, as religion is more conservative than language, 
local cults preserved a more stubborn independence than local 

If, setting aside a priori notions, we consider the facts of 
religious cultus as they appear in ancient writers, especially 
Pausanias, we shall soon find that the myths of the gods were 
not self-consistent, and that their cultus varied from place to 
place. Instead of a clearly denned system, we look on forms 


as fleeting as those of a cloud. Every seat of worship in Greece 
had its own tales and its own customs, and recked but little 
whether they accorded with those of other sacred places. 
Often the tales thus locally accepted as to deities were quite 
at variance with the usual place of those deities in the Olym- 
pian assembly. One legend made Apollo the son of Athena, 
another made Athena the daughter instead of the rival of 
Poseidon. In the tales of Eleusis, Dionysus, under the name 
Iacchus, was probably regarded as the son of Persephone. In 
the local religion of Arcadia, the chief place was occupied by 
a deity of whom we hear only under the general name of Des- 
poena, the Mistress, who was said to have been daughter of 
Poseidon and Demeter, though other legends ascribed to the 
same strangely assorted pair of parents the origin of the horse 
Arion. In Thrace and Macedon the sun was regarded as be- 
longing to Ares, who in the rest of Greece was looked on as 
a semi-barbarous war-god. In Boeotia, the place of Hades as 
lord of the under world, and the chthonic gift of prophecy was 
taken by Trophonius, and at Oropus the same functions were 
assigned to Amphiaraus, though these beings were not regarded 
with veneration beyond the districts where their cult had a 
home, and had no place at all in the Hellenic Pantheon. That 
whole Pantheon seems like the designs seen in a kaleidoscope, 
designs which consist always of the same elements, but of those 
elements arranged and re-arranged in an infinite number of 

I will detail a few instances of the two rules, (i) that deities 
called by various names in different places were often really 
identical in function; and (2) that deities called by the same 
name were often really quite different. 

(1) A high place in the local theology of Syracuse was held 
by Arethusa, of whose adventures with the river-god Alpheius 
we have stories which have pleased the fancy of modern poets 
and so are well known to every one. But Arethusa is not 
clearly to be distinguished from Artemis in the guise in 
which she was worshipped in Peloponnese, as Potamia, the 
river-goddess, the queen of nymphs, unwearied in the chase 
and frequenting the thick underwood. But on the other hand 
this Arcadian Artemis has very little in common with the 
Boeotian or Thessalian Artemis, of whom Hecate, the goddess 
of spells and enchantments, was but another name, or with the 
august nature goddess, who was styled Artemis by the people 
of Ephesus and Perga, but who was really of distinctly Asiatic 
type, and a very near relation of Cybele. Thus Artemis takes 


on her at various places the nature of Arethusa of Hecate and 
of Cybele, and tales which might be appropriate to her in one 
of these characters would be quite inappropriate in the other 

The Dioscuri again, in their capacity of mortal heroes of the 
Spartan race, patrons of arms and chivalry, are doubles of the 
Messenian twins Idas and Lynceus, with whom the legend 
brings them into conflict. But regarded as embodiments of 
natural phenomena, the lights which shine on ships in the 
Mediterranean in stormy weather, the Dioscuri are equivalents 
of the Cabeiri of Samothrace, who were also twins, and are on 
coins represented in exactly the same guise as Castor and 
Polydeuces. In yet another aspect the Dioscuri are the stars 
of morning and of evening which shine alternately in the 
heaven. And between the human and the divine aspects of 
the Dioscuri there is no easy means of transition : there seems 
little reason why the national heroes of the very uncommercial 
and land-loving Spartans should be made supreme over the 
winds and waves of the zEgean Sea, to still them at will. 

Of all the Greek deities Zeus occupies, as is natural, the 
most stable position. His character should vary least from 
place to place ; he, if any of the dwellers on Olympus, should 
preserve universally his national and epic type. And yet we 
find in many parts of the Greek world forms of Zeus which 
widely depart from this type. Athenaeus l tells us of a Zeus 
Peloros worshipped in Thessaly apparently as a chthonic giant 
whose movements caused the earthquakes which often changed 
the features of the district ; that is, performing the part else- 
where given to the giants or to Poseidon. In Argos, a city 
where we should expect to find genuine Hellenic influence 
strong, we find a cultus of a Zeus with three eyes, a monster 
whom we cannot for a moment imagine as taking a throne 
in the Olympian assembly. We may fancy the contempt of 
Athena and the bitter speeches of Hera if so unseemly an 
apparition attempted to rule the tumults of heaven. 

(2) And not only did local forms of the Olympic deities 
clothe themselves in barbaric statues, and exercise functions 
which seem inconsistent with their true nature, but they were 
even formally recognised as distinct entities from other local 
forms of the same deities. Thus in a treaty of which the text 
is still extant 2 the Latians of Crete take an oath both by Zeus 
Cretagenes and Zeus Tallaeus, as if they were two beings. We 

1 xiv. p. 639. 2 C. I. G. 2554, 1. 176. 



read in Xenophon's account of his own journeys, that on his 
return from Persia he sacrificed freely to Zeus Soter and Zeus 
Basileus ; but that while he was staying at Lampsacus he was 
warned by a diviner that Zeus Meilichius was displeased with 
him for not having done him more honour, as if this third 
form of Zeus were an absolutely distinct being from the other 
two. 1 Xenophon also founded in Peloponnese a temple to 
Artemis Ephesia, regarding her evidently as another being than 
the Artemis Limnatis who had already so many shrines in that 
district. So it is recorded in Suetonius' life of Augustus 2 that 
the Emperor offended Jupiter Capitolinus by paying too much 
attention to Jupiter Tonans. Facts like these show how deities 
tended to confine themselves to their various temples, so that 
religion constantly tended to lapse towards idolatry. It will 
be well known to many that among the peasantry of Catholic 
countries, notably Italy, there is at this day a similar rivalry 
between the Madonna of one village and the Madonna of 
another, which causes not only heartburnings, but not unfre- 
quently deeds of violence. 

In Greece inspiration was not confined to one person or to 
one series of persons, but regarded as belonging to all who had 
communion with any of the gods. The Pythian priestess was 
inspired, but it never occurred to a Greek to form the Pythian 
rescripts into a sacred volume and then to consecrate that book 
as an infallible source of wisdom and truth. There was, so to 
speak, free trade in inspiration. If any one chose to go to Zeus 
at Dodona or Trophonius at Lebadeia instead of to the Delphic 
Apollo he was likely to get a reply of not much less value than 
those received from the more celebrated sanctuary. The sooth- 
sayer who consulted the flight of birds or inspected the entrails 
of victims sacrificed was as good an authority as genuine works, 
or works regarded as genuine, by Orpheus or Musseus. The 
poet among ourselves sometimes talks of his inspiration, but 
this is not taken seriously, is only a fanciful form of speech. 
But the Greek poet whose prayer was heard and answered by 
the ready Muse was reckoned as really inspired. 

Thus the various cults in Greece had a fair field and no 
favour. They grew slowly or fast according to the influences 
which came to bear on them. Some were taken up and woven 
like threads into the peplos of Greek national religion. Some 
remained obscure, or were discredited and died away. Some 
were rendered comparatively unchanging through being em- 

1 Anabasis, vii. 8, 4. ' 2 c. 91. 


balmed in outward ceremonies and observances, or in some 
noteworthy work of art. Others were shifting and changing 
from age to age. Sonic making their way from abroad grew 
more and more at one with Hellenic feelings and beliefs until 
they assumed quite a national character. Others, though 
born in Greece, never reached the level of the best national 
life, but remained as fragments of alien and unassimilated 
matter in the midst of the stream of the religious life of the 

There were of course in Greece deities of the state, whom 
to worship was part of patriotism ; and there were family 
deities, and deities of the tribe. But outside this correct 
religion, and more and more prominently as social life decayed, 
there was, so to say, a perfectly free competition among the 
Greek deities for votaries, and those best succeeded who best 
met the needs of worshippers. In some early representations of 
the judgment of Paris, the goddesses before him are competing 
not in beauty, but with gifts ; and, in fact, this idea so strongly 
penetrated the story that it marks even the most modern of 
versions of it, Tennyson's CEnone. In the same way the Greeks 
were disposed to pay most honour to that one of the gods who 
gave them the best gifts. Rivalry of one another in the 
esteem and in the offerings of mortal men marks the Greek 
deities in the Homeric poems, and such rivalry continued 
until the G reek religion was a thing of the past. 

Such rivalry might take a very open and naive form. A 
votary might wander from shrine to shrine, asking help at the 
hands of one deity after another, and if help came anywhere 
that would seem the best of all reasons for accounting the 
deity through whom it came the most beneficent and the most 
powerful of the gods, whether that deity were one of the 
oldest and best established of the inhabitants of Olympus, or 
some quite new importation from abroad. Every reader of 
Herodotus will remember how, when meditating a war against 
Persia, Croesus sent embassies to all the chief oracles of 
the ancient world asking the same question, in order that he 
might compare the answers. He set oracle bidding against 
oracle, as in our days men set builder competing against builder, 
or printer against printer. And when the Delphic Oracle 
fairly won in the open competition, Croesus made it by his lavish 
gifts the wealthiest shrine in the whole world. ]]y a similar 
success in meeting actual demands other temples in Greece 
rose into wealth and splendour, and as they rose thus, the local 
tales of which they were the outward and visible consecration 


became more widely known, and were incorporated into the 
body of the national theology. 

A clear instance of the value to the fame and honour of 
deities of definite gifts bestowed on men will be found in the 
history of the cults of the three goddesses, Hera, Artemis, and 
Aphrodite. In Homeric times Hera appears as incomparably 
the greatest goddess of the three. Artemis she whips with her 
own bowstring, and Aphrodite is the mark of her continual 
scorn and jests. And Hera, as the stately goddess of wedded 
life and the rights of matrimony, including even the bestowal 
of children on her worshippers, would naturally be an object of 
veneration to Greek women. Yet we find in later Greece the 
cultus of Hera by no means very prominent. To take a simple 
test, five or six cities in Greece proper place Aphrodite or 
Artemis on their coins for every city which accords that honour 
to Hera. A simple explanation of this curious phenomenon 
may be found in the fact that though Hera had good gifts to 
bestow they were less attractive than those of her younger 
rivals, of whom Artemis was especially invoked amid the perils 
of child-birth, while Aphrodite was the bestower of fortune 
in love. 

Coming down to a later time, a cult which continually gained 
ground in Greece and never lost it was that of Asklepius. 
Health is among all nations the best of good gifts of heaven, 
and at a time when society was sick, and men were losing their 
pristine vigour and -energy, their search after health became 
keener and more absorbing. Hence the rapid spread of the 
cultus of the god of healing. In the period of Greek great- 
ness before Alexander, we do not hear very much about 
Asklepius. 1 But after Greek ideas had conquered Asia, in the 
time of the Diadochi, Asklepius was one of the deities whose 
cultus took deep root in the forelands of Asia. This process was 
aided by political reasons, since Pergamon, the capital of the 
wealthy and powerful Attalid kings, had been from the first de~ 
voted to the adoration of Asklepius. So the Asiatic temples of 
the god, which were always thronged with multitudes waiting* 
for advice and healing dreams, grew vast and wealthy ; and 
the lustre won by Asklepius in Asia was reflected back on his 
European seats, Epidaurus in particular, which city became in 
a manner entirely sacred to him. And thus the tales about his 
birth and his life became a part of the generally recognised 

1 His worship was unknown at Athens till B.C. 420 when he was intro- 
duced from Epidaurus. 


mythology of Greece, and with Asklepius, his daughter Hygieia, 
and his mother Coronis attained high rank in Olympns. 

I cannot attempt to show in detail how, out of the unformed 
and miscellaneous substance of Greek local and tribal legend 
and usage, the Hellenic Pantheon was built up. Herodotus, 
in a well-known passage, says that the work of construction 
was mainly accomplished by Homer and Hesiod ; and in this 
statement there is beyond any doubt a great deal of truth. 
The works which passed under the names of Musseus, Orpheus, 
and the rest, were no doubt, as Herodotus implies, of later date 
than the great epics. When the recitation of the Homeric 
poems at festivals became usual, and still more when they 
became the ordinary subjects taught in Greek schools, they 
acquired a predominance in the minds of the average Greek 
gentleman which nothing could shake. And yet to such pre- 
dominance there must have been local exceptions. We can 
scarcely imagine the people of Ephesus or Perga allowing 
currency to the story that Hera whipped Artemis with her own 
bow, or the people of Argos accepting the tale that Hera was 
hung from Olympus in chains; and in fact, of such local 
prejudice we have an instance in the interpolation of the 
passage in honour of Hecate in the Hesiodic Theogony. 

Homer and Hesiod did not invent names for the gods, or 
arbitrarily assign them functions. There are in the lists of 
Hesiod many cases in which divinity is ascribed to arbitrary 
impersonations, such as Uovos and Max'], and in such cases the 
poet may actually have been the creator of the personalities on 
whom he bestows the name. But of course no poet of the 
Homeric or the Hesiodic school either invented the name or 
determined the functions of any of the greater deities, Zeus or 
Apollo or Poseidon, or even Cronus or Rhea. All that any of 
those poets did was to exercise a certain power of selection, to 
choose among the names and the personalities of the gods 
handed down from remote generations, and introduce among 
them by degrees, one poet working on the basis of another, 
a sort of system or hierarchy. They chose certain deities and 
certain legends, and built for them an eternal temple of echoing 
song, to protect them for ever from change and from dissolu- 
tion ; and the result is patent to all those who know anything 
of Greek history ; it was the formation of a sort of normal or 
standard scheme of Greek mythology, which was acknowledged, 
more or less, by all the better educated and more intelligent 
of the Greeks, whether they dwelt on the native soil of Hellas, 
amid the fertile fields of Italy, on the slopes 'in which Libya 


breaks down to the Mediterranean, or in the neighbourhood of 
the barbarous Scythians of the steppes by the Euxine Sea. 

Every Greek who was born above the ranks of the sordidly 
poor went to school during boyhood ; and at every Greek 
school the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were made the text- 
book of education. With them were associated the poems of 
the later lyrical poets, such as Pindar and Simonides, and of the 
gnomic writers ; but Homer and Hesiod always remained the 
chief source whence came the Greek ideas as to the hierarchy 
and the functions of the gods. And the training thus imparted 
in youth was confirmed and consolidated, day by day, by the 
power of the second education which every Greek went through, 
education of the mind through the eyes, by observation of the 
innumerable works of art which filled all Hellenic cities. In 
art, the poetic view of the gods, started by Homer and Hesiod, 
and carried on by Pindar and Simonides, and the other great 
poets of early Greece, was in the main accepted and carried 
out. What wonder then if the Greeks held fast those notions 
as to the gods which were instilled into their minds in child- 
hood, and which were enforced every day by the testimony of 
poetry and art 1 

The Homeric and Hesiodic poems were thus the first and 
most prominent cause of the formation of a Pantheon, yet the 
Pantheon did not remain altogether at the Homeric stage, but 
went on changing and developing. In fact, every poet who 
dealt with mythology exercised upon the fabric of it some 
influence. Perhaps this is most notable in the case of Stesi- 
chorus the Sicilian poet, who flourished in the sixth century. 
Several instances are recorded in which he purposely innovated 
on the received mythical versions of events. In one of his 
poems he had spoken severely of Helen, describing the daughters 
of Tyndareos as being made, by a special curse of Aphrodite, 
Stydfxovs re koI rpLyd/jLovs ko.1 Xnrccrdvopas. Helen in anger 
smote the poet with blindness, and to appease her he wrote a 
recantation or palinode in which he invented or revived the 
tale that Helen never really went to Troy at all, but that it 
was only her ei'&oAoi/, or image, which Paris carried thither 
over the sea. On this the poet recovered his sight ; and it 
is evident that those who believed the tale about Stesichorus 
would thereafter deal with stories about Helen in a cautious 
mood. In another poem, speaking of the story of Artemis and 
Actseon, Stesichorus rationalised it by asserting that Actaeon 
was not turned into a stag, but that the goddess cast over him 
the skin of a stag, in order to make the dogs attack him. And 


in later days Pausanias, 1 commenting on the poem of Stesi- 
chorns, observes that for his part he does not see that the inter- 
vention of the goddess was necessary at all, since the dogs may 
very well apart from her have gone mad, and torn their master 
without recognising him. 

Not inferior to the influence of successive poets on the ideas 
formed by the Greeks of their various deities was the influence 
exerted by the great sculptors and painters, Polygnotus and 
Pheidias, Zeuxis and Praxiteles. This is a subject of vast 
extent. Overbeck has attempted to give a systematic account 
of the successive manners of representing in art the gods of 
the Pantheon, and the scale on which he has found himself 
obliged to work may be judged from the fact that his account 
of the representations in art of Zeus alone occupies 600 large 
octavo pages. Of each deity, after all the wrecks of time, 
there exist scores, nay hundreds, of variant representations, 
each of which bears the mark of a period, a city, and a school. 

For the sake of illustration, and of illustration merely, I will 
give two examples, the first of conservatism, the second of 
innovation in the artistic types of the gods. 

In the case of Artemis more than in that of any other Greek 
deity the early artistic representations bear an Oriental impress. 
It was the custom of the sculptors of Babylon and Syria to 
represent their deities as winged to signify their swiftness, and 
as strangling in their arms beasts and monsters, perhaps evil 
spirits in beast-like shape, to signify their strength. When 
Artemis first appears on Greek monuments she is usually 
winged, and grasps in each hand a beast which she has over- 
powered, lion, panther or stag. A good example is offered by 
the bronze plate from Olympia.' 2 To Oriental workmen it was 
natural thus to add externally to the forms of their deities 
emblems of their supernatural powers. But the Greek artist 
as naturally strove to incorporate his symbolism in the statue 
of the deity, and not merely to add it as a supplement. Take 
a quite late Greek representation of Artemis, the well-known 
Artemis of the Louvre. Here swiftness and power are as 
clearly indicated as in the archaic childish figure. But they 
arc indicated in quite another fashion, in the way of Greek 
plastic art. The swiftness of the goddess is clearly shown by 
her attitude and by the length and suppleness of her limbs. 
Her power over beasts is represented by her arrows and by the 
stag on which she lays a hand, and which is the lineal descen- 

1 ix. 2, 4. ■ Overbeck, Griech. Plastik, i. p. 124. 


dant of the wild creatures of the early representation. The 
deity is now really translated from Babylonish into Greek. 

This then is an instance of conservatism in the representa- 
tions of the gods : let us take another instance to show innova- 
tion. In early art the god Hermes appears very frequently, 
and almost always in one connection. He acts as the herald, 
the messenger of the gods, who sees that the decrees of Zeus 
are carried out on earth. So he is represented like a herald, 
as a staid and mature bearded man, always busily occupied 
with the functions assigned him in the scheme of Olympus. 1 
Presently to the Greeks Hermes became in a special way the 
patron of athletic sports, his figure decked the gymnasia, and 
he himself became the type of all that an athlete should be. 
If we come down to the time of Praxiteles we shall find that 
he still represented Hermes as busy in the service of the gods, 
in fact, as carrying the newly born child Dionysus to the 
nymphs, who brought him up by the decree of Zeus. But the 
type of the god is entirely changed under athletic influence. 
He is no longer a grave herald, but a beautiful Athenian youth 
in the very flower of his strength and energy. Let us come 
down another century to the wonderful bronze Hermes of 
Herculaneum. In him all trace of the herald, of the serious 
man of business has vanished : we find instead a youth whose 
agile limbs seem made for the race. He is the very impersona- 
tion of swiftness and agility, a consummate athlete, the only 
trace of his divinity visible lying in the wings of his feet, sole 
relic of early symbolism. 

These two instances must suffice to illustrate the power of 
art in forming the popular conceptions of the deities ; what 
met the eyes of the artistic and imaginative Greek in the 
market-place and the street, the temple and stoa could not fail 
to mould his thoughts and to shape his religious feelings. 

We must not forget that Homer represents the Ionian and 
Achaean, but not the Dorian section of the Greek race. In the 
Epic poems those deities and those elements of religion which 
Greece owed mainly to the Dorians are omitted or appear in 
the background. Por example, the religious veneration of 
ancestors is scarcely Homeric, and it is noteworthy that Homer 
takes a lower view of the world after death than was usual 
among the Dorians. Of this ancestor-worship I have already 
spoken. But it remains to speak of other influences which, 

1 So very commonly on black and early red-figured vases. See Gerhard, 
Auserlesene Vascnbilcler, passim. 


after the Homeric age, tended to produce unity in the religious 

ideas of the various Greek stems and cities, and so to evolve a 
national Pantheon. Conspicuous among these influences are 
those of the Great Games — Olympia, Pythia and the like — of 
the Mysteries of Eleusis, and of the oracles, especially that of 
Delphi : of these we must successively speak. 

A strong and lasting tie, which bound together all Hellenes 
into a certain religious unity, was the Great Games of Greece, the 
Olympia, Pythia, Nemea, and Isthmia. Of the great influence 
exercised by these festivals on the physical development of the 
Greeks, on their commerce, their art, and their institutions we 
cannot here speak. What now concerns us is the influence 
exercised by the festivals already named, and those other festi- 
vals like them held at the shrine of the Branchidse at Miletus, 
at Delos, at the temple of the Lacinian Hera in South Italy 
and elsewhere, on the religious beliefs of the Greeks. That 
such influence was profound and lasting we cannot doubt. We 
are apt, in reviewing in our minds the outward circumstances 
of festivals like the Olympia and the Isthmia, to forget their 
intensely religious cast. But the religious element would never 
be lost sight of by all the thousands who thronged to them. 
In honour of the gods the sacrifices were offered with which the 
festivals began and ended. And in fact, according to a very 
plausible theory, even the physical contests, which were the 
chief feature of the festivals, were the direct descendants of 
bloody human sacrifices which were at the same spot offered 
in pre-historic times. Nor could any Greek pay a visit to 
< Mvmpia or to Delphi at the time of the games without carry- 
ing away a lively feeling of veneration for the deities to whom 
those spots were sacred, and a fresh memory of the religious 
myths by which such possession was explained or justified. 
The Homeric Hymn to the Delian Apollo belongs essentially to 
the panegyris of the Ionians, who met at the sacred island in 
solemn festival : at the panegyris it would be on all lips. And 
in that hymn how much there is of theology in the Greek if 
nut in the modern sense of the word ! How near it seems to 
bring Apollo to all who partake of his sacred hospitality. 

Such, then, was one of the functions of the great agonistic 
festivals of ancient times, in making the deities in whose 
honour they were held, Zeus and Hera, Poseidon and Apollo, 
the common possession of all who took part in the festivals. 
And a similar function in relation to the worship of the great 
chthonic deities, Demeter and Persephone and Iacchus, Mas 
performed by those Eleusinian Mysteries which, in the course 


of Greek history, we see gaining rapidly in importance and 
spreading in influence, until from being as at first the private 
possession of the Eumolpidae, they became successively Attic, 
Hellenic, and even cosmopolitan. And in this case the 
influence on religious belief is even more direct and striking 
than in the case of the great games, since, as we know, theologic 
doctrine was certainly taught to those who were initiated : 
doctrine mainly mythologic, but involving distinctly the 
belief in a future life and in future rewards and punish- 
ments. All the Greeks believed in the existence of the soul 
after the burial and decay of the body, but this is a doctrine 
common to all barbarous peoples, and not essentially either 
moral or immoral ; but under the influence of Eleusis the 
doctrine of the future life took a higher and more moral tone, 
and became distinctly Hellenic, casting away the swaddling- 
bands of its barbaric origin. 

Another institution which tended to give to the Greeks as 
such a national religion was that of the oracles, more especially 
the greatest of the oracles, that of Apollo at Delphi. Every 
one who is even passably acquainted with Greek history knows 
how important a part in the affairs of states was played by the 
responses of the Pythian god. If a war was intended, a 
colony on a distant shore planned, a policy under discussion, 
in every case Delphi might be consulted. The Spartans were 
especially tenacious of this religious custom, and more than 
once was the course of their affairs changed by a Pythian 
rescript. And not only states but also private individuals were in 
the habit of seeking a way out of their difficulties by calling to 
their aid the unmeasured wisdom of Apollo. The days of 
those who had nothing but contempt for the oracles of Greece, 
or even fancied that the power which inspired them was not 
divine but diabolic, have passed away, and few people would 
now hesitate to allow that their influence was on the whole 
directed to good. On the whole, by consulting them, states 
became wiser and more just, and even private individuals 
learned lessons of wisdom and virtue, though of course in the 
responses delivered to them there must have been more or less 
of deception. And not only did the existence of the oracles 
tend on the whole to the improvement of morality, but they 
also tended greatly to produce unity in the religious beliefs 
of Greece. In them all Greeks alike could hear the voice of 
the national divinities, and the numerous deputations from all 
parts of Greece which were constantly jostling one another in 
the courts of the Delphic temple must have realised on such 


occasions, if never before, that Apollo was the leader and 
inspire! of all alike. 

At the time of the Persian wars the influence of Delphi 
had begun to decline. And by temporising, Medising as the 
Greeks called it, at that supreme crisis of history Delphi lost 
for ever its undisputed place at the head of Greek religion. 
That place was to some extent taken by the city which then 
assumed the lead in all intellectual and moral matters, Athens. 
The great deity of Athens, Athena, became to some extent 
the patron of Hellas ; and about her the Athenians ranged a 
series of the twelve greater gods, Zeus and Hera, Poseidon and 
Demeter, Apollo and Artemis, Hephaestus and Athena, Ares 
and Aphrodite, Hermes and Hestia. This list does not differ 
greatly from that which might be extracted from Homer ; the 
chief discrepancy is the omission of Leto and the insertion of 
Hestia. But if we turn to other centres of Greek religion, 
we find systems of deities greatly differing from that of Athens. 
At Olympia, for instance, in the list of twelve greater gods, 
Demeter, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Hestia are omitted, 
and in their place Ave find Cronus and Rhea, Dionysus, Alpheus, 
and the Charites. 

After speaking of the growth of national Greek religion, we 
should perhaps say a few words as to its decline and decay. 
This is a subject which it is impossible to treat in a satisfactory 
way without speaking of Greek philosophy and other subjects 
which do not come within the scope of the present work. 
We must content ourselves with a very few words. 

The fact is that as Greek thought and civilisation progressed, 
the educated classes in Greece outgrew their religion. Poly- 
theism is necessarily less elastic as a system than monotheism, 
less capable of being modified in accordance with growing 
civilisation, and of being remoulded by philosophy and science. 
If there be many deities, there cannot be unity of plan in the 
universe, nor can it be governed by fixed laws. Even in 
Homer we may see the beginnings of monotheism, which gradu- 
ally spread, until in the fifth century b.c. thinking men were 
practically monotheists. Hence the conflict between morality 
and religion which is dwelt on in the Republic of Plato. At 
that time the old paganism survived in the beliefs of the 
uneducated, and it lived on in a modified form in poetry 
and art ; but its vital force was gone, and it only awaited the 
death-blow of a great crisis. 

That crisis came in the days of Alexander the Great. When 
the Greeks became masters of the world, it soon became clear 


that they had no satisfactory religion to offer to mankind. The 
religion of their lower classes was of a local and tribal kind, 
or at most national. The Greeks could not present to bar- 
barous peoples their own religious system as one to put in the 
place of all others. They could not bid the conquered races 
throw their idols to the moles and the bats, and worship Zeus 
and Athena. Greek religion was for Greeks, and not for 

Thus when the centre of gravity of the Greek world was 
shifted eastward, the national religion of Greece was fatally 
injured. In its old seats in Greece and Asia, and even in the 
new cities founded by the Macedonians, it lingered on, and 
retained for a long time the adhesion of the people. But there 
was no force to elevate and sustain it, so that the cults deterio- 
rated in character ; and they could not hold their own when 
brought into competition with the new deities of the East, 
with Isis and Mithras and Sarapis; and on the other hand 
they could not resist the inroads of materialism. When we 
read the shameless hymn addressed by the degenerate Athenians 
to the libertine Demetrius Poliorcetes, 1 " Other gods live far 
away or have no ears ; either they do not exist, or they care 
nought about us ; but thee we see before us, not of wood or 
stone but living. To thee then we address our prayer," we feel 
that there cannot be any reality of religious belief in the city 
which in old days had been the most religious of Greece. 



I propose next to analyse and set forth the scheme of Greek 
religion as we find it in the earliest of Greek writings, the 
Homeric poems. 

In Homer 2 we find an Olympus ; that is to say, the deities 
whom he recognises are not independent one of another, but 
members of a regularly constituted hierarchy, recognising a 
common lord or superior, and exercising proper functions, not 
always indeed rigidly marked out and bounded, yet in the main 

1 Athenseus, Bk. vi. p. 253. 

2 I use the name Homer merely for shortness and convenience. By it 
I mean the authors of the Iliad and Odyssey, poems which I suppose to 
belong substantially to the ninth or eighth century. 


strongly indicated. The Olympian assembly meets and the 
deities sit in regular order ; they discuss plans and arrange 
events, and Zeus himself scarcely ventures to disregard their 
general feeling. Some have greater dignity, some less : it is 
the part of some to speak and of others to listen. As the 
chiefs meet on earth to hold councils of war and to decide the 
fate of captives, so the gods meet on their sacred mountain to 
hear the counsels of Zeus, and either to applaud them or to 
protest against them. 

The position of Zeus * in the assembly of Olympus is higher 
and more honourable, however, than that of a head chief or 
king of kings like Agamemnon in relation to his subordinate 
chiefs. No deity would dare to dispute his will, nor even to 
protest against it, unless supported by the general opinion. 
Even Hera does not venture on a more open protest than 'ipt) K 
drdp ov rot ndvres €7nuveo/xev Oeol aAAoi. Some of the most 
august of the Olympian deities have already felt the anger of 
Zeus and undergone humiliating punishments, like that of Hera 
when she was suspended from heaven with an anvil tied to 
each foot. And he boasts that lie could drag away by his sole 
force all the gods of Olympus, with earth and sea to boot. 
Indeed, his power is less limited by his subordinate colleagues 
than by the dim and mysterious power of Fate, Molpa or Aura, 
who sometimes overrides even his will, although in nearly all 
cases his will and hers seem to be in unison. 

Regarded in his physical aspect, Zeus to Homer embodies 
the great vault of heaven and the upper air. He is sovereign 
lord of meteorological phenomena ; he gathers the clouds and 
hurls the thunderbolt ; guides the flight of fate-bearing birds 
through the air, and is everywhere present at the deeds of men. 
His power is, if not unlimited, yet of so vast extent that all 
opposition to it must fail. He is the father or at least the 
superior brother of all the important deities, and of undisputed 
rule throughout the universe. Looked at in the highest light 
he even approaches to the idea of deity held by monotheistic 
peoples, as his will and the right are usually not to be separated : 
lie knows the end from the beginning, and orders all things in 
heaven and earth so as on the whole to be best. Other deities 
descend to earth in order to carry out their wishes ; he but 
sends a messenger or even acts without one from the encom- 

1 For more details the reader may consult the second volume of Mr. 
Gladstone's Studies on Homer. Mr. Gladstone's work is thorough and 
original, and its value will not be disputed even by those who regret the 
presence in it of theological bias. 


passing heaven. Yet this bright majesty has dark shadows. 
The character of Zeus is, in the Iliad, strongly marked by 
sensual passion, and his government is sometimes distorted 
and debased by unjust partialities, such as that which he feels 
for his son Sarpedon. He is by no means above receiving 
gratification of appetite from sacrifice, sacrifice which disposes 
him towards the offerer, and on the occasion of the Theomachy 
he is actually spoken of as rejoicing in the strife — Zpis — of 
the immortals. In fact, the Greeks of the Homeric age did 
not scruple to ascribe to their supreme deity, noble as they 
thought him, the failings and vices which we may presume to 
have been common in his representatives on earth, the Stor/K^ees 

Hera is a less dignified character by far. Her powers mostly 
derive from her station as Queen of Olympus, and chief wife 
of Zeus. Hence the deities rise up when she enters their 
assembly, and she disposes of many of the prerogatives of the 
supreme god. She sends the sun to his setting even against 
his will. 1 She endows the horses of Achilles with a voice. 2 
On one occasion she even thunders in honour of Agamemnon. 
She sends Iris on frequent messages, and when she mounts her 
chariot the horses leap at each step as far as a man's eye might 
pierce at sea. Yet, in spite of such powers and prerogatives, 
Hera is neither magnanimous nor amiable. She is swayed 
beyond all the immortals by violent and unreasoning prejudices, 
which Homer cannot put in a pleasing light, although in the 
Iliad they tell in favour of the Greeks. Zeus taunts her with 
being eager to eat up the Trojans alive ; and she looks even 
upon her lord in disgust when she reflects that he is partial to 
the Trojans. Herakles, whom she hated, she pursued from his 
birth onwards with bitter malice, receiving at last in her breast 
an arrow from the unconquerable hero. And the goddess acts up 
to her likes and dislikes without hesitation : her plans are carried 
out alike by force and fraud. Aphrodite, Sleep, and even 
Zeus himself are the victims of her wiles. Beauty and clever- 
ness, et'Sos Koi irivvTr}, are the gifts which she bestows on the 
daughters of Pandareus, and these she has freely to bestow ; 
by these she maintains her state on Olympus, but higher 
qualities are wanting. 

Hera is in Homer so entirely humanised that we find in her 
scarcely a trace of elemental meaning. The case is quite other- 
wise with Poseidon, whose nature is at once seen to be in close 

2 11, xix. 407. 


harmony with the element he rules, the open sea. He does 
not represent water in general, nor the still depths, but rather 
the waves as they leap against the shore and throw down the 
rocks. He is a deity of almost measureless physical force, who 
owns a sway almost independent of Zeus himself, claiming 
indeed, in the fifteenth hook of the Iliad, an equality of dignity 
with him, and saying that by lot only was there assigned to him- 
self the sea rather than the heavens. Yet this vast force is 
not animated by a high soul. Poseidon is not above feeling 
bitter resentment when his unworthy son Polyphemus is justly 
punished by Odysseus. He is fond in an undignified degree of 
sacrifices, and is ready, for the sake of gratifying a pique, to 
revolt against the moral order embodied in Zeus. He is the 
father too of many impious sons, such as Otus and Ephialtes, 
and is like them ill-regulated in force and passion. 

The highest moral attributes to be found in Olympus are 
those pertaining to Athena and to Apollo. In the case of 
Athena her physical and elemental meaning has so completely 
fallen into the background that it is even matter of dispute 
what it was. In Homer, she appears altogether as a disem- 
bodied spirit, the patroness of the wisest and best of men, 
the source of wise counsels in the case of men, and the teacher 
to women of cunning arts of handicraft. Nothing that she 
attempts ever meets with failure ; all deities who oppose her 
designs are baffled and overthrown ; but her plans are almost 
always of good moral purport. Her wishes seldom clash with the 
designs of Zeus, when Zeus is ordering things as chief moral 
ruler of the world. In Olympus, Athena has the right to the 
seat next to that of Zeus, which she gives up sometimes to 
distinguished visitors such as Thetis; and as Mr. Gladstone 
well observes, she alone among the gods is addressed by Zeus 
as <f>i\ov t€kos. Zeus unaided brought forth Athena from his 
brain, and she is ever true to such origin, representing not the 
passion, but the wise thought of the gods. In particular Athena 
is spoken of in the eighth book of the Iliad as the constant 
friend and helper of Herakles, in his labours for the good of 
men ; and whenever a Greek sets himself a task above the 
ordinary matters of fighting and toiling, he is sure of the same 
effectual aid. She is in the Iliad spoken of as the guardian 
deity of Athens, but her connection with that great city is 
not yet so close as it is to become. She is worshipped not 
less earnestly at Troy, by Nestor at Pylos, by the Argive 
Diomedes, and by Telemachus at Ithaca, and she accompanies 
( Mysseus to many far-lying lands. Neither space nor time can 


bar her action, and rarely indeed is she summoned in vain by 
those for whom she has a favour. 

Apollo is by no means fully identified with the sun. The 
plague-bearing arrows of Apollo of the first book of the Iliad 
must indeed be the solar rays, but in more than one passage of 
the Odyssey, the sun-god, 'HeAios, is spoken of as a personage 
quite apart from Apollo. The place of Apollo also as god 
of healing is taken in Olympus by Paeeon. These and other 
functions were absorbed as time went on by the well established 
deity of Apollo. But in Homer he is already of very high 
dignity. Addressed by Zeus as </>iAe <J>oi/?e, and one in heart 
and will with the divine government, he, like Pallas, seems to be 
raised above all failure and to disregard opposition. He is the 
poet and prophet among the gods, ruling the choir of the Muses, 
and imparting the oracles of heaven to those pious among man- 
kind who seek to ascertain them. He is also lord of the bow, 
which he can use for the destruction of mankind, as in the first 
Iliad ; but it is seldom that his bow thus sounds in wrath. 
Usually his arrows merely effect the gentle removal of those 
doomed by fate, more especially those who are young and 
innocent; and as the Greeks naturally made the deities of de- 
struction supreme over healing and preservation, it is especially 
in this latter phase that Apollo appears in Homer. In the 
vsixteenth book of the Iliad, Glaucus calls upon him as one 
always ready and able to help men in distress, and begs him to 
heal his wound and give him energy for the conflict, and Apollo 
at once fulfils his wish. Thus to hear a prayer breathed out in 
the battlefield when the deity does not seem near, and thus to 
infuse fresh life into a fainting heart belongs to but three of 
the Greek deities, those invoked in the frequent formula, at yap 
Zeu re Trarep kou 'Adr^vac-q kgu "AttoWov. 

The dignity of Artemis is in the Iliad far inferior to that of 
her brother. Her beauty is extolled by the poet ; the minis- 
tration of early and easy death is confided to her in the case 
of women, as it is to Apollo in the case of men, and this shows 
that her power must reach widely over the earth. As Apollo 
bears silver bow and golden sword, so Artemis is credited with 
golden throne and golden spindle. She roams freely through 
wood and over mountain, and nourishes the young of wild 
creatures. Yet she is never spoken of in language of high 
veneration, and there is something peculiarly humiliating in 
the whipping which she receives from Hera in the Theomachy. 
Contrary to the later tradition, a greater dignity than that of 
Artemis attaches to her mother Leto, who in later times almost 


disappears, but who is always in Homer treated with much 
respect, and appears as a real if a secondary wife of Zeus. In 
the TJieomachy, Hermes, with marked deference, declines to 
oppose her, though she- is assigned as his foe ; and although 
Leto never comes into the foreground in Homer, she is often 
mentioned among the great goddesses of Olympus. 

Demeter also remains in Homer in the background. The 
phrase applied to corn, A-qpyrepos a/cnj, shows that there is in 
this deity a good deal of naturalism : her anthropomorphism is 
far less complete than that of deities like Hera and Athena. 
She seems to represent the rich mould of the surface of the 
earth whence spring the crops, T?} pi)rr]p, the mother of all that 
grows. She does not, however, enter at all into the action of 
the Iliad, and seems to belong to another plane of religion. 
Her daughter Persephone, too, the awful goddess of the shades 
below the earth, though spoken of Avith reverence as severely 
pure and exalted, yet does not come out as a real personality. 
In Homer she is not the mere reflection of Aidoneus or Hades, 
as Hera is but the wife of Zeus and Amphitrite of Poseidon. 
Although Hades is own brother to Zeus, and indeed often 
spoken of as Zevs KaraxOovios, yet he does not in any way 
surpass his queen in dignity. Rather the higher duties of the 
world below centre in her, and she rather than Hades himself 
is the object of cultus on the earth. It is to her that the groves 
belong, and the realm below is spoken of as 'AtSao Sopot kolI 

iTTOLLVrjS Uep(T€(f)OV€L'q<S. 

Hephaestus is the deity of fire, but chiefly of fire considered 
in one particular aspect, as the means whereby works of metal 
are produced at the hands of cunning artificers. Hephaestus is 
in Olympus the worker par excellence : hidden in his youth by 
Thetis under the stream of Ocean, he wrought for years orna- 
ments for women ; grown up he makes the divine armour of 
Achilles, and forms tripods so well wrought that they move of 
themselves, and golden maids who have a voice and wisdom to 
understand. In the Homeric age the Greeks had a naive and 
wondering admiration for works in metal of high skill, most of 
which came to them from the Sidonians, and so it was natural 
that skill like that of Hephaestus should win their admiration. 
Yet there adhered among them, as usually in purely military 
communities, a certain contempt for the mere workman, how- 
ever skilful, when compared with statesman and warrior ; and 
traces of this feeling are reflected from earth on to the artificer 
of Olympus. He is not comely ; he is lame ; he is betrayed 
by his wife. He causes a ripple of laughter to pass over the 



Olympian assembly when he essays to act before them as cup- 
bearer. In fact, when he quits his art, of which he is the 
unrivalled master, he soon becomes ridiculous. In the Iliad, 
Charis is assigned to Hephaestus as his wife ; in the Odyssey, 
by a slight modification of the legend, Aphrodite. 

Ares and Aphrodite are not only connected in Homeric 
legend, but there is a strong similarity in the ways in which 
they are treated in the poems. Both are regarded not without 
contempt by the graver deities, and considered as children who 
must be cajoled, or if necessary even chastised into doing what 
is becoming. It may well appear strange that in a society so 
thoroughly military as that described by Homer, the god of war 
should be held of slight account. One reason of course is that 
the highest warlike qualities, valour, penetrated by wisdom and 
the habit of command, are not represented by Ares but by 
Athena. But this again is a strange thing, that a woman-deity 
should absorb the qualities which Greeks highly admired in 
men, but never associated with women. It is evident that we 
have here a problem only to be solved after a careful observa- 
tion of the origin and rise of the cultus of these warlike deities. 
Meantime we observe that Ares represents only headlong love 
of fighting, desire of slaughter no matter in what cause, in fact 
the fighting animal nature which we expect rather in the 
soldier than the leader, and in the mercenary than the citizen. 
Ares is never invoked in prayer, even in the stress of battle, 
and his power over nature is very small, even human nature he 
can only touch in the one point of warlike passion. And even 
in his special pursuit Ares is not very formidable. Twice 
Athena strikes him helpless to the ground, and he is no match 
even for Diomedes, when supported by that goddess; he is 
captured by Otus and Ephialtes, and falls an easy victim to the 
plot of Hephaestus, as narrated in the lay of Demodocus in the 
Odyssey. He is in fact the ruffian of the poems, and some- 
times the butt. 

Aphrodite is treated with little more tenderness. Her great 
power is not denied, but it is represented as seldom exerted 
for good. When she is wounded by Diomedes, Zeus and Athena 
treat her complaints with contempt, and Athena even advises 
the Greek hero to have no fear of meeting her in the field, 
though he should avoid all other deities. She is exposed in a 
most humiliating way in the net of Hephaestus to the contempt 
of the Olympian throng. Yet when dealing with women who 
have submitted to her sway, Helen for instance, in the third 
book of the Iliad, she is harsh and cruel. There is little about 


her to attract any admiration but that of sense : it would be 
easy to find, in the Homeric poems several women who are in 
all respects more dignified than this goddess. 

Hermes does not figure prominently in the Homeric poems. 
He is spoken of both in Iliad and Odyssey as Sioriop idiov, giver 
of increase, and is represented as that one of the deities who 
is most friendly to man, and most kindly and easy-going in his 
transactions with the deities, as for instance when in the 
Tkcomachy he declines the contest with Leto, and expresses 
his willingness that she should give it out that he has been 
defeated. He appears in the Odyssey as guide of the souls 
of the dead, xfvxoTrofnros. He is, moreover, on more than one 
occasion intrusted by Zeus with a delicate mission, as for 
instance, when he leads Priam into the Greek camp in search 
for the body of his son Hector, or when he is despatched to 
Calypso, who was perhaps the sister of his mother, to warn her 
to let Odysseus go. But in the Iliad the regular and official 
courier of the gods, who carries news of the decrees of Olympus 
to those whom they may concern, is Iris. 

Besides these regular deities there are other more shadowy 
members of the Olympian circle ; Dione, the mother of 
Aphrodite ; Themis, who summons the deities to the assembly ; 
Pseeon, the healing god ; Helios, the sun in his material aspect, 
the deity who sees all things from his heavenly abode. And 
there is a host of gods and demons of various powers who 
rale the world of waters. There are the Oceanid Nymphs, 
and conspicuous among them Thetis, whom Zeus himself would 
fain have won for a wife. And there are the rivers, beginning 
with Xanthus or Scamander, who is even privileged to take 
a part in the Theomarhy, and is said to have received high 
honour from the Trojans. On only one occasion are these 
river daemons spoken of as present at the Olympian assembly, 
and they seem to constitute a sort of plebs as compared with 
the aristocracy of higher deities. Nor must Ave omit Hebe, 
whose sole function in Olympus seems to be the pouring of 
wine or nectar for the assembled gods, and who is closely 
attached to Hera, and said to be her daughter. 

Outside Olympus there is in the Homeric mythology a sort 
of background consisting of deities who do not appear to be 
directly subordinate to Zeus, but retain a sort of independent 
command, in virtue of age or dignity or the remoteness of their 
-cat. Aidonens and l'crsephone are in the main Olympian 
deities, although they do not make their appearance in the 
mhly of the gods, hut other deities are kept from Olympus 


by stress of other things than active duties. Cronus and Rhea, 
the father and mother whom Zeus has dethroned and super- 
seded, live in Tartarus, and there ride over the race of Titans, 
who have lost their function of governing nature. Oceanus, 
the aged father of all deities, and Nereus, the aAios yepwv, or 
old man of the sea, are too aged to dance attendance on the 
young ruler of the gods, and even to excite his jealousy, and 
live far apart with the crowd of their nymph-daughters. 
Hestia, the sacred fire of the hearth, is scarcely in Homer 
personified at all. 

Beside these venerable remains of an earlier state of things, 
we may place the daemons of less account, who are not dignified 
enough to claim the entry into Olympus, and are mostly attached 
to one or other of the gods as companions and ministers. Eris 
is spoken of as the sister of Ares, though we need not construe 
this as implying descent from Zeus and Hera. She is madly 
fond of the fierce battle-strife, in which she lives as in an 
element. Her mighty shouts encourage armies for the conflict. 
Also connected with Ares are Phobos, Terror, 1 and Enyo, the 
destroyer of cities, who marches with Ares in the van of the 
Trojans. In the same category is the terrible Ker, the dark 
minister of death, and the Harpies, who carry off maidens. 
The Erinnyes belong to a higher strain. They embody and 
scarcely disguise the feelings of remorse felt by those who have 
been guilty of an evil deed. Especially they guard the sacred- 
ness of the family relations, and pursue with unending per- 
severance those who have violated family duties; they also 
guard the rights of the poor against oppression, and punish 
every sort of haughtiness and highmindedness. Stalking about 
beneath the earth, they hear the complaints of the wronged, 
and note the evil deeds of the oppressor, and bring redress. 

Behind the might of Olympus, sometimes as it seems over- 
riding it, is the mysterious force of Fate, called by Homer 
Molpa or Atb-a. Fully to discuss this power, which Homer 
scarcely personifies, would lead us too far into the philosophy 
of religion. It is, however, to be noted that Homer is less 
perspicuous and self -consistent than usual, when speaking on 
this subject. Sometimes he seems to speak as if fate were the 
higher will of Zeus ; the word, if we may so put it, of Zeus 
speaking ex cathedrd ; sometimes the will of Zeus seems to be 
in conflict with destiny, as when he allows, with bitter regret, 
his favourite son Sarpedon to meet his death at the hands of 


Patroclus because destiny has so willed it, and yet at the Same 
time Zeus is debating with himself whether lie shall override 
destiny, and rescue his son. In many cases Homer expressly 
states that something would have happened contrary to destiny, 
v-n-ip alcrav, unless such and such a circumstance had occurred. 
In one case he even seems to speak of men as overriding 
destiny by their valour, 1 icai totc 8rj /" virtp alcrav 'A^atot 
<f)€pT€poi Tfarav ; sometimes again destiny is spoken of as if it 
were a power that no man and no deity could gainsay or resist. 
In fact the Greeks of Homer's time had already encountered 
that opposition between fate and human will which still per- 
plexes and tries us in modern days. It is, however, noteworthy 
as a specially Greek element in the Homeric theory, that both 
ala-a and pLotpa originally mean a share. It was supposed that 
a certain share of good and evil was allotted to each man, and 
that to alter that share was not permanently possible to human 

In the separation of his gods into hostile camps, Homer gives 
us a clear intimation as to his opinion of their local attribution 
and their origin. Zeus alone, as supreme deity, is impartial, and 
favours neither of the contending nations, prospering or sacri- 
ficing each in turn in accordance with the exigencies of his 
policy. He is at home alike on Olympus and on Ida. But the 
other deities all have a favourite home, and belong primarily 
to the people who devote to them a special cultus. The deities 
who in the Theomacliy of the Iliad take the Greek side are 
Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, and Hephaestus. The two 
most ardent on that side are of course Hera and Athena ; and 
to these two correspond the mortal champions Agamemnon and 
Achilles. The great Argive Heraeum was at the gate of the 
Mycenae of Agamemnon ; and there was the oldest and most 
important of all cults of Hera. Athena is at Troy not princi- 
pally the patroness of the Athenians, who figure in the war but 
little. Rather she must be considered as Athena Itonia, the 
local deity of the Thessalian Achaeans, among whom Achilles 
was pre-eminent. Her close friendship with Biomedes is ac- 
counted for by the ancient cultus of Athena on the acropolis 
of Argos, and her patronage of Odysseus by the close con- 
nection in early days between Athens on the one hand and 
Cephallenia and the neighbouring Ithaca on the other. Poseidon 
is a special deity of the Ionian race, and his most ancient and 
venerable seats are on the shores of the Corinthian Gulf, at 

1 //. wi. 780. 


iEgse and Helice. Hermes is eminently of Arcadia, the country 
whence came so many of the stout spearmen of Agamemnon. 
Hephaestus was in early Attic legend and cultus closely con- 
nected with Athena. 

The five deities then of whom we have spoken are all of 
Hellenic lineage, and have their chief seats in Hellenic lands. 
It may be objected that Hera had an ancient seat at Samos, 
and that Pallas Athena was tutelary goddess of Ilium itself. 
But the Samian worship of Hera may perhaps not have borne 
the name of that goddess in the Homeric age ; and the Ilian 
cult of Athena, though it became famous through the Homeric 
poems, was probably not of much intrinsic importance com- 
pared with that of Thessaly. If, on the other hand, we turn 
to a consideration of the deities who in the Theomachy and 
elsewhere take the Trojan side, we shall easily find reason for 
their doing so. They are Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Ares, Aphrodite, 
and the river-god, Xanthus. 

If for a moment it shocks us to find so Hellenic a deity as 
Apollo on the Trojan side, that surprise must give way at once 
when we consider that Apollo was in a special degree the deity 
of the Troad. His temple at Chryse was renowned early and 
late in Greek history, and his cult dominated all the country 
round. Of the Lycians he was the national deity ; and Trojans 
and Lycians were closely allied in race, as well as on the same 
side at Troy. And Apollo being the special patron of the 
Trojans, it is not strange to find on the same side Artemis and 
Leto, who were, at least in Greek tradition, inseparable from 
him. Moreover, the Greeks were prone, as we know, to give 
the name of Artemis to the forms of the lunar goddess of Asia 
Minor, of the Phrygians and Carians, and she might easily be 
considered as more Asiatic than Greek ; while Leto was, as we 
know, the name of a Phrygian deity of great reputation, who 
ruled in the neighbourhood of Hierapolis, 1 and was also wor- 
shipped in Lycia. Nor was Leto ever thoroughly admitted 
into the Greek Pantheon. Ares was especially a Thracian 
god ; and Thracians formed a part of the population of Asia 
Minor, and brought a large contingent to the army defending 
Troy. Aphrodite was almost foreign to the Greek system. 
She is more intensely Trojan in her sympathies than any other 
deity, a result perhaps of the instinct of the poet that she was 
thoroughly Asian in character and origin. Apollo, on the other 
hand, is, as we might expect, very half-hearted in his patronage 

1 See Ramsay in Journ. Hell. Stud. iv. p. 375. 


of the Trojan people. Xanthus, as the local river-god, is, of 
course, on the Trojan side ; and the prominent position assigned 
to him hears fresh witness to the fact that the peoples of Asia 
Minor raised their river-gods, such for instance as Marsyas and 
Mamnder, to a much higher point of veneration than did the 

We therefore seem justified in saying that the poet of the 
Iliad, in assigning partialities to his deities, proceeds on local 
and tribal grounds, not on those of fancy, or any reasons based 
merely on the moral nature of the gods. No doubt in de- 
scribing their encounters one with the other, he works as a 
poet to bring about a pleasing and suitable result ; even in 
pairing the combatants he freely follows his fancy or his sense 
of the fitness of things ; but his first grouping was prescribed 
to him by what he would consider historical necessities. And 
the local elements in mythology, visible even in the Iliad after 
its consolidation and harmonising into its present form, are far 
more clearly to be traced in the Greece of a later time. This 
will clearly appear in subsequent chapters. 

The poems of Hesiod, and more especially the Theogony, are 
constantly mentioned by writers, both ancient and modern, in 
connection with the Homeric lays. The Theogony remained in 
the schools a sort of handbook of divinity, and was quoted by 
the defenders, and still more by the opponents of the current 
notions on theology. But the information given us by Hesiod 
as to the gods entirely differs in character from that given us 
by Homer. From Homer we learn what the deities are 
like, how they live among themselves, Avhat is the nature 
of their interference with the doings of mortals, and what 
means they employ to effect their purposes. The legends as 
to the genesis and mutual relations of the gods and goddesses 
arc in many places assumed, but are only rarely set forth at 

In the poems of Hesiod it is otherwise. In the Worka and. 
Days there rules something very near monotheism : Zeus is 
there spoken of as supremely just, as looking with impartial 
eyes on all the doings of men, and meting out reward and 
punishment in proportion to human merit and demerit. In the 
Theogony we find scarcely any information as to the nature of 
the gods, the way in which they should be addressed, or how 
they may be conciliated. Their wishes and functions are not 
stated ; but in the place of such information we have an 
abundance of legend and myth, detailing the origin of the gods 
as well as of the existing universe exhibiting their blood 


relationships to one another, and describing the great events in 
the history of Olympus. 

The stories which form the staple of Hesiod's Theogony 
appear to be based upon a variety of local myths, partly Cretan, 
partly belonging to Asia, partly current at Delphi, and partly 
collected from a variety of other sacred places. But the merit 
of the poet of the Theogony is that he has pieced these legends 
together until they form a fairly consistent whole. The poem 
is an attempt, half poetical and half philosophical, to reconcile 
the Legends told about the gods with the facts of the universe. 
The writer does not scruple to fill in the gaps between the 
deities by inventing a host of personifications — sometimes aspects 
of the world, sometimes human qualities, and sometimes mere 
names, — who were never really objects of worship in Greece. 
There may have been many attempts to form a rational cosmo- 
gony, but that of Hesiod succeeded, and his work becoming 
a standard authority, the tales which he tells about various 
divinities became more and more a part of their history, as 
usually accepted among Greeks ; and even his inventions 
seemed in time to gain a certain reality, partly through their 
adoption in the works of subsequent poets and artists. 

It is unnecessary here to repeat the argument of the Theo- 
gony, which may be found in all works on Greek Mythology, 
as well as in the first chapter of Grote's history. It is not so 
pleasant that one would wish to dwell on it unnecessarily. 
The stories it contains are no worse than those locally current 
in the days of Pausanias in half the temples of Greece, or in 
the days of Apollodorus in the writings of the numerous 
mythographcrs. But those were merely local, while the Greek 
nation adopted the stories in Hesiod. We cannot feel surprised 
when we hear that many bad men in Greece justified their ill 
deeds by referring to the precedent set them by Zeus or by 
Apollo. And we cannot but sympathise with the earnest 
attack made on them by Plato in the Republic. Taking their 
origin at a time when the race was at a low level of culture 
and morality, and repeated unchanged from age to age, they 
preserved into better days the impress of barbarous vices and 
crimes. Few things tended more to keep down the level of 
morality among the lower classes than Hesiod's Theogony ; and 
nothing had greater effect in producing the distrust and dislike 
of popular religion which spread among the more educated 
classes of Greece during the fifth century. 




In passing from the Homeric pantheon to that of historic 
Greece we find a very different order of things. We pass 
from the simple to the complex, from the clear to the vague 
and obscure. There is a natural tendency among classical 
scholars to regard what is Homeric as belonging to the earlier 
history and a deeper stratum of Greek development, and to 
suppose that all that is characteristic in the civilisation, the 
ideas, and the religion of later Greece was thence evolved. But 
no notion could be cruder or further from the truth. The 
Homeric poems belong to the aristocracy ; they represent not 
the mass of the Greek race but a small section of it. They 
are not part of the stem of Hellenic nationality, but the flower 
of one branch of it which came early to maturity. The time 
which succeeded them was in many ways an age of retro- 
gression rather than of progress ; and when progress was 
resumed, the Hellenic race was to a great extent changed in 
ideas, as in blood : many elements which lay outside the 
Homeric horizon had become prominent and important. 

We must confine our remarks, however, to the subject of 
religion. In this field two phenomena are strikingly present. 
In the first place, the deities of historic Greece constitute a 
system or a whole far less than do those of Homer ; and this 
takes place in spite of the great influence exercised by the 
Homeric and Hesiodic poems on the religious ideas of subsequent 
times. And in the second place, much of the religion of his- 
toric Greece bears the impress of an earlier and more primitive 
age than does the Homeric religion. The cults described by 
Pausanias seem to us far nearer to barbarism than the mythology 
of Pindar, and this in turn is in some respects less advanced 
than the Homeric theology. When, however, we consider 
religious and ethical thought rather than cultus and mythology, 
we find that time does bring progress. In fact, while Greek 
philosophy and speculative thought advanced steadily towards 
monotheism, the religious notions of the lower orders remained 
at a lower level than the Homeric. 

Such facts as these make the treatment of the mythology 
and theology of historic Greece in a systematic fashion one 
of extreme difficulty. In fact, these were in ancient Greece 


never thoroughly systematic. Attempts were from time to 
time made to bring them into system, but such attempts had 
but partial success. Religion varied in Greece from race to 
race, from city to city, and from poet to poet ; and no central 
authority, not even that of Delphi, succeeded in smoothing 
away local varieties. Attempts such as were made in ancient 
times by mythographers from Hesiod to Apollodorus to arrange 
the floating mass of tradition and usage could have little 
success. Still smaller is likely to be the success of any modern 
efforts in the same direction. 

For such reasons, it seems to me unsatisfactory to pursue 
the plan adopted by many able mythologists, of endeavouring 
first to settle the root-meaning of a deity, identifying Athena 
for example with the upper air, or Apollo with the sun, and 
of proceeding thence to derive by deductive reasoning all the 
functions of that deity. Our method shall be inductive rather 
than deductive, and I shall try to avoid the prejudices which 
must arise if one starts with a ready-made system. I believe, 
as I have already stated, that none of the Greek deities is 
pure and uncompounded, but that all stand at the end of a 
long process of development and concretion. Yet they may be 
to some extent brought into line and order if we consider (i) 
in what places their cultus was best established and most 
ancient, and (2) what was the general character of their func- 
tions in such places. In this fashion I propose to proceed. 

We begin, as is natural, with Zeus. The oldest seat of his 
worship was Dodona, where was his sacred oak guarded by the 
Selli, " who sleep on the ground and wash not their feet," and 
his celebrated oracle, as well as the multitudes of tripods dedi- 
cated to him. Even to Homer's Achilles. Zeus is Dodonsean 
and Pelasgic 1 — 


Zev ava AwSwvate HeAacryiKe rrjXoOt vatiov 
AwScuv^s /xeSetov Svo~)(€LfX€pov' djAcfyl 8c 2eAA 
<rol vouovtr' VTro<f>rjTai avi7TT07roSe9 yaixauvvai 


It has indeed been disputed whether these lines refer to the 
Dodona of Epirus or to some place of the same name in Thes- 
saly, either mother or daughter of the Epirote city, and situate 
nearer to the ancestral home of the Phthiotic Achilles. But in 
any case it can scarcely be denied that the cultus of Zeus in 
Epirus is as old as Homer ; and at a later time we find small 

1 //. xvi. 233. 


trace of a Thessalian Dodona. The Epirote Dodona was one 
of the places inquired of by Croesus, at the time when he was 
about to embark on his fatal war with Cyrus. 

In historical times Dodona was the religious centre of the 
whole north-west of Greece, Epirus, Western Thessaly, Acar- 
nania, and Corcyra. Zeus was there worshipped as god of 
weather and ruler of thunder-storms, so frequent on the Al- 
banian hills, and as presiding over moisture, the source accord- 
ing to the Greeks of life and growth. With him was associated 
Dione, who in Epirus quite takes the place of Hera, though 
neither there nor anywhere else does she seem to receive in- 
dependent worship or to have definite functions. And Aphro- 
dite, as daughter, according to early Greek legend, of Zeus and 
Dione, also has a place in the local worship. In early times 
the Selli seem to have been ministers of an oracle of the earth, 
but in later time their place was taken by priestesses, called 
IleAfiatfes, who seem to have collected the responses of the 
oracle of Zeus from the whisperings of his sacred oak tree, 
or from the murmuring of doves in its branches, or perhaps 
from the sounds made by the wind in the tripods dedicated 
to the god. 

Olympus and the neighbouring parts of Thessaly were not 
less than Dodona a domain sacred to Zeus. There was his 
Homeric seat, and there in the tields of Phlegm took place the 
memorable battles in which the earth-born giants fought against 
his sway, and tried to storm his stronghold. Stories of the 
conflicts of gods and daemons seem to belong to most mytho- 
logies, notably to that of India ; and the Gigantomachy must 
be considered as the part of the history of Zeus most universally 
accepted by the Hellenic race in all its seats. To the common 
people it was a fairy-tale ; to the poet and the sculptor a good 
subject for artistic treatment ; to the physical philosopher a 
parable of the phenomena of the storm; to the moralist a 
mythical rendering of the victory of order over chaos, of the 
powers of light and progress over those of darkness and destruc- 
tion. Less important were the tales of the childhood of Zeus, 
which were localised either on Mount Ida in Crete or on the 
Lycsean mountain in Arcadia, both from pre-historic times 
seats of divine worship. 

It is remarkable, as Welcker 1 points out, that the early 
scuts of the worship of Zeus are mostly high mountains. And 
this is not the case with other deities, whose temples commonly 

1 Or. Gotterlehre, i. 170. 


stand on a low hill. Ida in Crete, iEtna in Sicily, Ida in 
Troas, the Peloponnesian Lycseus, the Thessalian (Eta were 
all occupied by sanctuaries of Zeus. Olympus, the highest 
mountain in northern Greece, lent him a surname. This idea 
of a god who dwelt aloft on the mountains is common to 
Greeks with the inhabitants of Asia Minor and Syria. It 
accompanied the Hellenic race in its migrations, and the name 
Olympus was applied by that race to many mountains in various 
parts of Hellas which seemed to grow near to the sky and afford 
a resting-place for heavenly influences. Great mountains are 
the homes of storms, and naturally the abode of deities of 
weather ; yet there was probably added to this merely physical 
interpretation a moral one of a higher strain. Aloft in the 
mountains most men feel a certain elevation of soul and a 
tendency to worship the ruler of man and nature. 

The greatest sanctuary of the Hellenic Zeus was at Olympia, 
which was indeed, with Delphi, the religious centre of the 
Hellenic world. The cultus of Zeus on this spot appears, from 
the results of the German excavations, to date only from the 
Dorian invasion of Peloponnesus. 1 Yet the Zeus of Olympia 
does not seem greatly to differ in character, at all events on the 
physical side, from the Arcadian Zeus, who dwelt on the 
a/3aTov, the unapproachable summit, of Mount Lycseus, and 
who was venerated as the god of the sky and the storm by the 
superstitious Arcadians. But the advent of the Dorians, and 
their acceptance of the Elean Zeus as their chief deity, if it did 
not change the root-conception of the god, yet tended vastly 
to raise his character and extend his functions. He was ac- 
knowledged as the ruler of Olympus, the father of gods and 
men, and the chief source of divine providence in human life. 
The more the Greeks gained in culture the more they inclined 
to monotheism ; and as Zeus was the only deity who could be 
regarded as supreme, his cultus naturally gained at the expense 
of that of his brothers and children. And the splendour of 
the Olympic festival, the wealth heaped up in the sacred Altis 
and dedicated to Zeus, above all perhaps the renown attaching 
throughout Greece to the glorious colossus by Pheidias, which 
stood in the temple of Zeus, contributed to spread abroad the 
fame of the deity. Closely connected with the Olympian cultus 
of Zeus was that of Hera, who also possessed a very ancient 
temple in the sacred precinct; and Victory was especially 

1 See especially Furtwangler's Bronzen von Olympia. Remains of 
Mycenaean civilisation are not found at Olympia. 


attached to him as his daughter and his minister, who flew at 
his bidding, whether to crown a successful charioteer or to greet 
a leader in war. We learn from the coins of Elis that the 
thunderbolt and the eagle were here especially attached to his 
service-; and indeed these became his attributes in all places. 
The Zeus of Nemea, situated in the valley between Argos and 
Corinth, was also patron of a great sanctuary and an agonistic 
festival : in character he probably differed little from the Zeus 
of Olympia. 

At Athens, Zeus was adored under more than one form. 1 As 
Polieus, he received sacrifices of oxen, and his priesthood was 
restricted to some of the chief families of the place. In another 
aspect, as Meilichius, he embodied the softer influences of air 
and sky. The Diasia, held in his honour, fell on the 23rd 
of Anthesterion, the month of flowers, and seem to have cele- 
brated the returning warmth and brightness of summer after 
the storms in which the wrath of Zeus was displayed. And 
Zeus Meilichius became in the moral as well as in the physical 
sense the god of compassion and the restored favour of heaven, 
purifying those who had accidentally shed innocent blood. 

The conception of Zeus was, as has been already sug- 
gested, probably brought by the Hellenes or their Pelasgic 
predecessors from the original seats of the Aryan tribes ; yet 
in the conception of the deity prevalent in some localities of 
Greece there may be an admixture of elements borrowed from non- 
Aryan sources. For instance, the Thessalian Zeus, Laphystius, 
received human sacrifices even in historical times, and most- 
writers are disposed, when they hear of human sacrifice in Greece, 
always to refer the custom to the influence of Phoenicians or 
Canaanites, worshippers of Baal and Moloch ; also the god 
of merely physical attributes whom the Arcadians recognised, 
who dwelt in high places and uttered his voice in thunder, may 
be supposed, not without reason, to be a deity of a pre-Aryan 
race settled in Greece before it was conquered by the Hellenes, 
a deity adopted by these latter, and gradually changed and 
raised in character, as indeed usually happened with the deities 
they adopted. Yet on the whole Zeus may be regarded as one 
of the most unmixed as well as the highest products of the 
religious feelings of the Hellenic race. 

The principal seat of the worship of Hera in Greece proper 
was Argos. Already in Homer, Hera is 'Apyeir; and passionately 
prejudiced in favour of Argos, Sparta, and Mycenae; but of 

1 Welcker, Gotterlehrc, i. 207. 


course to Homer the great cities of Argolis are all in the hands 
of Achaeans, not of Dorians. It would appear that the Dorians, 
when they occupied Argos, adopted the local goddess from the 
race whom they conquered, carrying her worship to a higher 
pitch of fame. The earlier favourites of Hera spoken of in 
early Greek tales are not Dorians. Most of them are of 
Thessalian race — Jason and his Argonauts; Peleus, on whom the 
goddess bestowed Thetis ; and Achilles the Achaean of Thessaly. 

Being thus renowned in some of the earliest seats of the 
Hellenic race, it seems likely that Hera belonged to an early stage 
of the religion of Greece. It has been disputed whether she em- 
bodies the earth, the moon, or the air ; and in fact the various 
tales told of her indicate a connection sometimes with one and 
sometimes with the other. Hera or Era seems to be an old 
name of the earth in Greece. When Hera is said to have 
borne by her own power Hephaestus or even Typhaon, we may 
interpret this myth by the bursting forth of subterranean fires 
from the ground. When Zeus is spoken of as embracing Hera 
on the mountain top where heaven and earth meet, we naturally 
identify heaven and earth with the husband and the wife re- 
spectively. It is but a repetition in the language of current 
Greek mythology of the old story of the union of Uranus and 
Gaea. Yet on the other hand Hera is sometimes identified with 
the lower air, while Zeus is regarded as the upper sky, in the 
story for instance of Ixion, who mistook a cloud for Hera ; 
and this was the view adopted by philosophers and theosophers, 
from Plato, who quibbles about "Hpa and arjp in the Cratylus, 1 
downwards. It is again certain that there was in Hera some- 
thing of the moon-goddess : this appears from the story of Io, 
and is clearly established by the close connection maintained 
by the Greeks between Hera and the deities of parturition. 

On whatever physical facts, however, the idea of Hera is 
based, what is certain is that she was -worshipped in historical 
Greece in thoroughly anthropomorphic fashion, and not either 
as physical fact or intellectual abstraction. In discussing the 
origin in the phenomena of the world of Greek deities we must 
never forget that the origin was seldom present to the minds of 
their worshippers. 

At Argos, Hera was the great deity of marriage with all its 
duties and consequences. Her chief temple was situate, not 
in the city, but on the skirts of Mount Euboea near Mycenae. 
In it was the great statue by Polycleitus, embodying the highest 

1 P. 404 c. 


idea of matronly grace and dignity to be found in the world. 
The details of the statue carried allusions to myths of the 
goddess. The lofty crown or %)olos on her head was adorned 
with figures of the Charites and the Horse. In one hand she 
held a sceptre surmounted by a cuckoo, the bird whose form 
Zeus took to win her affection ; in the other she held a pome- 
granate, the symbol of fertility. Her daughter Hebe stood by 
her side. Hera was the mother and the mistress of the 
Eileitlmia?, the deities of child-birth, and could withhold or 
grant their aid at her pleasure, and fertility in marriage itself was 
also dependent on her will. Yearly at the festival of the Heraea 
the mystic marriage of Zeus and Hera was celebrated afresh ; as 
the sacred day recurred, the goddess was supposed to become 
again a virgin, and to take on herself the wifely and maternal 
duties of her Olympian dwelling. Hera was venerated at 
Olympia, and games were even celebrated in her honour ; but in 
that spot, the favourite abode of Zeus, she could scarcely shine 
with any but reflected light. At Samos also Hera was especially 
venerated as the bride, Hera Parthenia, and the object of 
adoration to brides and matrons. In historical times the Hera 
of Samos was almost as Hellenic as the Hera of Argos ; yet 
we can clearly see that from the first it was not so. The 
ungainly and barbarous form of the statue of the goddess, which 
was preserved in the HeraBiim at Samos, and ascribed to the 
hands of Smilis, indicates that there were originally Oriental 
elements in the local cultus : it is indeed likely that the 
Samian Hera was only a Greek translation of an early local 
deity of the class of Mylitta or Cybele ; but by the time of 
Polycrates these barbarous traits had probably disappeared. 

In the practical life of Hellas no deity had so universal and 
commanding an influence as Apollo. Most or all of his attri- 
butes and functions may have originally arisen from the various 
aspects in which men may regard the sun, looking on it as the 
source of light and of warmth, as causing or curing disease, as 
scattering the clouds, or as filling living things with energy and 
happiness. But in historical times many of them had become 
entirely detached from the physical background : to most Greeks, 
Apollo was a living pervading force, the source of happy inspira- 
tion, and the promoter of all that was best in Greek religion 
and morals. As to the derivation of the word Apollo there is 
no consensus of opinion. One very important function attaches 
to Apollo in nearly all his phases, that he rules the division of 
times and the succession of months, a natural function of a 
solar deity. 


In the cultus of historical times Apollo stands as a member 
of a group, as son of Leto and twin-brother of Artemis. On 
its physical side this is the equivalent of saying that sun and 
moon are brother and sister. But we are ignorant what race 
or tribe united sun and moon thus into a family, and by giving 
them Zeus as a father united them with the Greek Olympus. 
As Welcker * well remarks, Gsea and Nereus were never made 
children of Zeus, and sun and moon belong not less to primitive 
nature-worship than earth and sea ; yet, until these latter 
were absorbed into the Olympian system, it could not become 
universal, or fulfil the religious desires of the Greek race. 
But with the inclusion of Apollo, the universal triumph of 
Olympus was assured. We may be certain, however, that 
this step was not taken by the Dorian race, because the great 
centres of worship of Apollo as son of Leto were not in early 
times swayed by them. At Branchidse, near Miletus, was a 
great temple and oracle of Apollo, surnamed Didymaeus, or 
the Twin. This was probably a very ancient shrine, but 
adopted as their own by Ionians when they conquered the 
coast. Delos, the Homeric seat of Apollo, was the centre of 
an Ionian confederacy, and even Delphi was not always under 
Dorian influence. As Leto and Artemis, as well as Apollo, 
are on the Trojan side in the Iliad, it would look as if the 
origin of the whole family were Asiatic, perhaps Carian or 

But this group of deities, whencesoever derived, became 
afterwards peculiarly the champions of the Dorian race. It 
was this race which played the chief part in the process which 
raised Apollo from a mere elemental deity into the great 
interpreter of the will of Zeus and the exponent of the public 
conscience of Hellas. Hence there is some ground for the well- 
known theories propounded in K. 0. Miiller's Dorians, although 
those theories cannot be maintained as they stand. 

One of the most remarkable of the stories which attached to 
Apollo in later times was that of his worship among the people 
who lived beyond the Thracian mountains, which the Greeks, 
in the infancy of geography, supposed to be the source of the 
north wind. The blameless Hyperboreans were supposed to be 
devoted to the service of Apollo and Artemis. With them the 
god willingly tarried for part of the year, and came thence 
drawn by griffins to visit Delos and Lycia. Herodotus 2 heard 
at Delos that sacred offerings were sent year by year by the 

1 Gotterlehre, i. 511, 529. 2 iv. 32-35. 


Hyperboreans to Delos, through the medium of the Scythians 
and the Greek colonies in their lands ; but he seems not to 
have believed all that he heard on the subject. 

The two great centres of Apolline worship were Delos and 
Delphi. The first was said to be the birthplace of the deity. 
The first Homeric hymn tells how Leto, when about to give 
birth to Apollo and his twin-sister Artemis, wandered in pain 
over the lands, seeking in vain a safe retreat. All places 
dreaded the anger of jealous Hera and refused shelter to her 
rival. At last the island of Delos agreed to afford Leto a 
sanctuary, on condition that the god about to come to light 
would promise to make it his home for ever, poor and rocky 
as it was. Even in Delos, however, the birth was delayed 
because Eileithuia was kept away by her mistress, Hera : at 
length the unanimous desire of the other goddesses and the 
promise of a necklace overcame her scruples and she descended 
to the aid of the suffering Leto. Then came Apollo forth, and 
no sooner had he tasted ambrosia than he took his place at 
once among the immortals, claiming as his own the cithara and 
the bow, in the use of which none could vie with him. And 
above all, adds the poet, is the heart of Apollo made glad year 
by year when the trailing-robed Ionians gather together at 
Delos with their wives and children, to vie one with the other 
at the sacred games in boxing and dancing and song. 

This hymn gives us in simple form the story which arose 
out of the Delian cultus of Apollo and which agreed with 
its form, for in Greece the sacred local legends are always in the 
same key as local rites and ceremonies. The second Homeric 
hymn to the Pythian Apollo is less simple, but is so important 
to Greek mythology that its contents must be here shortly 
summarised. The poet narrates that Apollo wandered through 
Hellas seeking everywhere a spot where he might establish 
his temple and the oracle whereby he should enlighten man- 
kind as to the will of Heaven. He rejected Iolcus in Thessaly 
and the Lelantian plain, and passed without loitering the wooded 
hill whereon in after years Thebes was to stand. For a moment 
he hesitated whether to choose a site by the stream of Telphusa ; 
but the nymph craftily dissuaded him from the idea by 
representing that the noise of chariots in the plain and the 
crowds of cattle which watered at her stream would interfere 
with the solemnity of his temple. Then he went on to rocky 
Pytho on the seaward slope of Parnassus ; and there, by the 
fountain, he slew with his arrows a terrible serpent, to whose 
nursing Hera had once intrusted the child Typhaon, whom she 



had brought forth by her unaided force as Zeus had brought 
forth Athena. The monster lay and rotted in the sun, whence 
the place was called the place of decay (Pytho). There 
Apollo built his temple, his architects being Trophonius and 
Agamedes, and his workers eager crowds of votaries from the 
district round. But he went back once more to Telphusa, 
resolved there also to dwell as Apollo Telphusius, and he 
punished the perfidy of the nymph by rolling a stone upon her 

Then he set about providing ministers for the new temple. 
There was sailing past a ship from Minoian Cnossus full of men ; 
Apollo made his way to it in the form of a dolphin and bore it 
up from below, while at the same time he sent a strong wind 
from above which landed the affrighted mariners in the harbour 
of Crissa. Here Apollo appeared to them in his own form — 

avkpi etSo/xevos at^w tc Kparepu) T€ 
7rp(D$ri/3ri, X CUT ?? S elkvpevos evpeas w/xovs, 

and invited them to become his first priests, promising them, 
though the soil was barren and poor, that they should never 
want, since all the tribes round would vie one with the other 
in pouring rich offerings into the Delphian temple. Thus they 
followed him to the Pythian temple, singing Cretan paeans, 
while he marched before them playing the lyre, and they became 
his trusty servants and interpreters. 

This hymn confuses Apollo Pythius and Apollo Delphinius. 
Apollo Delphinius would seem, as Welcker remarks, to be the 
deity who gives at sea fine weather, when dolphins play on the 
surface. We have reason to think that he was worshipped in 
this guise in Crete, and especially by Cretan mariners, and the 
very name Crissa indicates that there was a Cretan settlement 
on the sea-shore by Delphi. Crissa was conquered by the 
Amphictions about B.C. 590; and it appears that the hymn 
dates from an earlier period than this : it has all the air of a 
priestly invention, a hymn made partly with a view to raising 
contributions. Delphi must have belonged to Apollo Delphinius, 
but the name Pytho, which seems older, carries other associa- 
tions. The Pythian Apollo is not, like the Delphinian, detached, 
but is the son of Leto and the brother of Artemis : in Delphic 
inscriptions this is clearly testified ; and he is far more nearly 
akin to the deity of the Iliad and of Delos. He is the great 
oracular god who governed the public conscience of Greece, 
and without whose advice seldom a colony set forth, nor did a 


city adopt a new cultus, nor even sometimes a man of rank take 
an important step in life. 

In later times the attribute of healing of diseases, which had 
belonged successively to Pseeon and to Apollo, passed to the 
son of Apollo, Asklepius. The worship of Asklepius originally 
belonged to Thessaly, whence it seems to have passed to 
Epidaurus in Argolis, but was also firmly seated in Cos and 
at Athens. It was also adopted warmly by the people of 
Pergamon, and when that city grew great the cultus of the 
deity spread more and more widely. In late Greek times it 
was exceedingly prevalent : belief in many deities died away, 
but the gifts of Asklepius were of so material and obvious a 
value that his cultus was maintained, and was in fact largely 
adulterated with the juggling and theomancy which marked 
the religion of later Greece. When the impostor Alexander 
of Aboniteichos set himself up as the revealer of the will of 
the gods, Asklepius was the deity whom he claimed specially 
to represent. The temples of Asklepius in every city were 
much resorted to by those who had diseases ; these slept in the 
temple, and the god revealed to them in a dream by what means 
they might become whole. Of late years it has been the custom 
to represent the temples of Asklepius as hospitals and his 
priests as skilled physicians ; but this seems to be at least an 
exaggeration of the truth. Physicians were inclined to regard 
the services of the Asklepian priests as quackery, and the very 
complete excavations of the Asklepieia at Athens and Epidaurus 
made recently 1 have failed to show that in it any methodical 
course of therapeutic treatment was ever adopted. 

Besides the deity of Delphi and Delos, the brother of 
Artemis, and the prophet of Zeus, there existed in Greece many 
forms of Apollo. These seem to have been originally inde- 
pendent, though of course in later times their splendour was 
overshadowed and their attributes absorbed by the Homeric 
and Delphic divinity. At Athens, for instance, a local deity 
was worshipped under the name of Apollo Patrous, and by a re- 
markable turn of legend he was said 2 to be a son of Hephaestus 
and Athena — one instance among many of the extreme elas- 
ticity and nebulousness of Greek myths. It was in honour of 
this god that the Athenian Thargelia were celebrated ; and he 
Was regarded as the father of Ion, and invoked on solemn 
occasions as the ancestor of the Athenian race. At many 

1 Cf. Girard, V A sclepieion d'A thenes ; Kavvadias, Fouilles d'Epidaure ; 
P. Gardner, New Chapters in Greek History, chap. xii. 

2 Cicero, De Nat. I)corum, iii. 22. 


Athenian doors again stood an image, a shrine, or an altar of 
Apollo Aguieus, the god of streets, and his sacred laurel com- 
monly grew near by. 

Argos was one of the principal seats of the worship of 
Apollo Lyceius, the god of light and of day. For some reason, 
and probably a reason more solid than mere resemblance of 
name, the wolf was in Argos regarded as the sacred animal of 
Apollo, and in that capacity appears on the coins of Argos 
from the earliest period. Apollo Lyceius was the great god of 
Lycia, and the early coins of Lycia are full of emblems which 
may refer to his solar functions, the three-legged symbol, the 
lion, and winged monsters. It is, however, to be noted that the 
wolf is not among them. In the Troad also, which was partly 
occupied by Lycians, Apollo Lyceius was held in universal 
honour, a fact which may account for the Trojan bias of Apollo 
in the Iliad. In some parts of the Troad, however, as at 
Grynium, he was worshipped as Smintheus, the patron or the 
enemy of mice. 

In other parts of Greece again Apollo was regarded as patron 
of herds and agriculture, and called Nomius or Epimelius. In 
this form the deity was carried by Minyans to Cyrene, where, 
according to legend, Apollo watched over the flocks and be- 
stowed on men the gift of the silphium, the principal pro- 
duction of the district. He became, by Cyrene the nymph, 
father of Aristaeus, a great patron of agriculture and the first of 
mankind to keep bees for honey. Of the same character was 
the Apollo Carneius, or Hyacinthius, worshipped at the old 
Achaean town of Amyclae in the shape of an archaic statue, 
a trunk but for the head, hands, and feet. Apollo Nomius 
possessed large flocks and herds in various parts of Greece, at 
Apollonia in Epirus for instance, which were tended by sacred 
slaves and brought great profit. They remind us of the herds 
of Helios in the Odyssey. No doubt the story that Apollo 
kept the flocks of Admetus at Pherse is one of the legends 
which attached to the pastoral form of the deity. 

Like Apollo, Artemis is presented to us in Greek religious 
history in two forms, sometimes as the twin-sister of Apollo, 
sharing his honours at Delos and Delphi, sometimes as an 
independent goddess of uncertain origin. Of course as time 
went on the sister of Apollo absorbed all other forms of 
Artemis, and the legends belonging to her were applied freely 
to them also. But it is noteworthy that in the Homeric Delian 
hymn the birth of Apollo only is mentioned, not that of 
Artemis ; and in the Iliad, Artemis is dealt with in a manner 


which would have been impossible had her fame and worship 
been ae widely extended and as deeply seated as in later times. 

As the functions of Apollo are derived from his identification 
with the sun, so those of Artemis accrue to her as the Moon- 
goddess, even those in which she is closely united to Apollo as 
a colleague. In Asia Minor the lion and the bull occur and 
recur apart and together in all early art : the former represents 
the sun and dry heat, the latter the moon and that moisture 
which the ancients closely connected with it. 1 Among the 
Greeks the nobler forms of Apollo and his sister take the place 
of these animal symbols, but yet also appear together ; to- 
gether they shoot Tityus and destroy the children of Niobe ; 
together on the frieze of the Phigaleian temple they advance in 
their chariot ; and Artemis hastens to the aid of her brother's 
temple when it is attacked by the Gauls. As Apollo sends an 
early and easy death to men, so does Artemis to women. 

Some of the most general and important of the functions of 
Artemis are those connected with child-birth, which are attri- 
buted to her, although regarded as a virgin, in virtue of her 
lunar nature. Scarcely in any Greek city would a temple of 
Artemis be wanting, and hither would the women flock to pray 
for gentle treatment at the time of child-birth. Of the vows 
there taken we have abundant record in the commonness of 
such names as Artemon and Artemidorus. Partly in connection 
with this function of Artemis, and partly from an idea that 
dampness is the source of life and growth, young creatures of 
all kinds, both wild and tame, were regarded as under the pro- 
tection of the goddess. Many of her temples in Peloponnesus 
and elsewhere were surrounded by parks full alike of the more 
timid and the bolder of wild beasts : that of Artemis near 
Cleitor and that of Syracuse are instances. These were 
places of asylum for animals chased by men or by beasts 
^i prey, and it was said that these latter lost their savage 
nature on entering the sacred precincts, and that all creatures 
which lived there were at peace together. We are accustomed 
to speak of Artemis as the huntress ; but in sculpture, even 
when she is drawing the how, a stag often stands by her 
side. She is far more the preserver than the destroyer of wild 
animals ; and thus she became an object of worship to herds- 
men, having it in her power to bestow fertility on cattle or to 
plague them with barrenness. 

1 The fact that dew is most abundant in clear moonlit nights must 
always have been familiar. 


The cultus of Artemis was widely spread in Peloponnesus. 
Here her most frequent cognomen was Limnsea or Limnatis, 
and her temples were mostly set on the verge of a lake or 
marsh. The standing water was sacred to her, and she was 
queen of all the rout who were supposed by the Greeks to 
have their home in such places, naiads and dryads and oreads. 
These attended her when she sped through the forest at night, 
and bathed with her in remote nooks and caves ; and her 
presence effectually protected them from intrusion and violence. 
In the high-land between Laconia and Messenia was a temple 
of Limnaea as goddess of the alliance of the two states. We are 
told that it was at a festival held in honour of this goddess 
that the quarrel between the Laconians and the Messenians 
took place which led to their first war. 1 According to the story 
of the former, the Messenians did violence to the Spartan girls 
who came to sing and dance in honour of the goddess. Artemis 
Limnaea or Potamia was carried by Dorian colonists to Sicily, 
and there seems to have been highly venerated. Another form 
of the Peloponnesian Artemis was Calliste or Callisto. Callisto 
was said to have been changed into a bear, and the bear was 
one of the animals sacred to Artemis, and often kept in a tame 
condition in her temple. Similarly the Brauronian Artemis of 
Athens was closely connected with the bear, and the girls who 
danced in her honour were called bears. In Boeotia and 
Thessaly the worship of the moon goddess took a somewhat 
different form. Those were the lands of witches and enchant- 
ments, and in all ages and countries the moon has been closely 
connected with these travesties of religion. As the witches' 
goddess, Artemis was called Hecate. But the degradation of 
Hecate belongs, like her representation in threefold shape, to 
a later time. There is a remarkable passage in Hesiod's 
Theogony in her honour, which is ancient, although suspected 
of being an interpolation where it occurs. 2 Hecate is said 
there to be of Titanic race, daughter of Perses and Asterie, 
and /xowoyev?js, by which it would seem that in Boeotia she 
had no connection with Apollo. She is praised in extravagant 
language, declared to possess highest honour among the im- 
mortal gods, to have been from the first partaker of the powers 
of deities who ruled heaven, earth, and sea, and to have been 
confirmed by Zeus, when he succeeded to the Olympian throne, 
in all her prerogatives. She can aid, the poet adds, the speaker 
in the council and the warrior in the battlefield ; giving 

1 Paus. iv. 4, 2. 2 Lines 411-452. 


honour to whom she will, she assists kings in judgment and 
hunters in the chase, and with Hermes can increase the cattle 
in the stall. Indeed, according to this passage, Hecate seems 
to have occupied for a time in Bceotia much the same position 
of dignity which Athena held in Athens ; indeed, much of the 
language used would apply well to Athena. At Pherse in 
Thessaly Hecate was much worshipped under the name of 
Brimo, and she appears frequently on the coins of the city 
under a form scarcely to be distinguished from that of Artemis, 
never in triple shape. 

By no means identical with the Hellenic Artemis, yet related 
to her in attribute and perhaps of similar origin, were other 
female deities in lands bordering on Greece, whom the Greeks 
called by the general name of Artemis, and whose cultus was 
adopted by Greek colonists when they settled in lands where 
it was already established. Such was the Thracian Bendis, 
whose worship was a recent importation into Athens in the 
time of Socrates, and seems to have possessed something of 
orgiastic and Phrygian character ; such was Dictynna, the moon- 
goddess of Crete, who was in late times the chief or at least 
the most characteristic deity of the island ; such was the Selene 
of Mount Latmus in Caria, whose association with Endymion 
sufficiently distinguishes her from the virgin sister of Apollo. 
The deity worshipped on the shores of the Euxine, and called 
the Tauric Artemis, was, according to legend, a fierce and martial 
deity to whom were sacrified all strangers found in the country. 
She was probably chief goddess of a tribe of wreckers who 
caused terror among the Greek sailors of the Euxine. The 
name Tauris, from its likeness to ravpos, seems to have caused a 
confusion between the Tauric goddess and Artemis, or Selene 
Tauropolos, a moon-goddess who was represented in art as riding 
on a bull, and to whom oxen were often sacrificed. 

But of course the most celebrated of the Asiatic forms of 
Artemis, so celebrated indeed that in the late times of Greece 
she outshone her Hellenic namesake, was the Artemis of 
Ephesus. It appears that when Androclus the son of Codrus 
landed with his Ionian followers at the port of Ephesus, he 
found near the hill, which he chose as a site for his city, a 
temple of an Asiatic goddess of nature surrounded by a colony 
of temple slaves or UpoSovXoi, and an ancient college of eunuch 
priests. This deity the new colony adopted. Her nature they 
could not entirely change : its roots were struck too deep in 
local veneration ; but they gave her a Greek name, and 
identified her with Artemis, because, like Artemis, she was a 


moon-goddess, patroness of young life and growth, and ruler 
of waste places. The Greek civic life and the ancient religious 
hierarchy of the temple went on side by side, sometimes the 
one encroaching and sometimes the other. In the stirring 
times after Alexander, the Hellenic spirit was near gaining the 
entire mastery ; and at that time probably the Hellenic legends 
were most freely applied to the Asiatic divinity; but a re- 
action came, and in the later days of paganism, when the 
Greek gods were scarcely believed in, but more venerable and 
mysterious cults were in demand, the Artemis of Ephesus re- 
verted more to her older form. The barbarous, many-breasted, 
archaic image, in which her majesty was embodied, constantly 
appears on coins of Ephesus of Roman times and is copied 
on the coins of other cities far and near. Closely similar to 
the Ephesian Artemis was the Artemis of Perga and several 
other cities of Asia. 

With Apollo and Artemis we may compare another pair of 
celestial twins of fame less wide. These are Castor and 
Polydeuces, called in a special sense the Dioscuri, or sons of 
Zeus. Their mother Leda nearly corresponds to Leto in name 
and in function, and they, like the children of Leto, are im- 
personations of the heavenly bodies. They are in one aspect the 
morning and the evening star, which are closely alike and yet do 
not appear together ; and the tales told of them, which need not 
be here repeated, are mostly connected with this physical mean- 
ing. The Asvins or two riders of Vedic mythology, closely 
correspond to the Dioscuri in physical meaning, and like them 
are thought of as continually on horseback. This seems to 
show that the Dioscuri belong to early Greek mythology ; and 
in fact, though these twin deities are almost exclusively 
Laconian, yet other pairs corresponding to them are to be 
found among other Greek tribes — Idas and Lynceus in Messenia, 
and Amphion and Zethus at Thebes. 

The true home of the Dioscuri was of course at Sparta. 
Thence their cultus wandered forth to Dorian colonies such 
as Syracuse and Tarentum, and from southern Italy passed 
at no late period into Rome, where they became tutelary deities 
of the class of Equites ; and in the iEgean and in Asia Minor 
a cultus, which seems to have been radically distinct from 
theirs, was mingled with it, that of the Cabiri of Samothrace, 
to whose agency was attributed the mysterious twin fires which 
in stormy weather in the Mediterranean Sea appeared about 
the masts of ships and was considered by the ancients to be 
a very happy omen. Thus the Dioscuri, being confused with 


the Cabiri, were regarded as deities alike of horsemanship and 
of seamanship ; and in the times after Alexander they be- 
came, popular in one capacity or the other in Syria, and even 
as far as India, frequently appearing on coins of the Greek 
kings of those regions. 

The origin of Poseidon and the way of his introduction into 
the Greek pantheon have been much discussed' Certainly by 
the time of Homer he is not only a member of the Olympian 
assembly but one of the most characteristic members of it, 
differing in this from the other great deities of water, Nereus 
and Triton and Oceanus. Herodotus, 1 as is well known, declares 
that the Greeks imported alike the name and the cultus of 
Poseidon from Libya ; but to modern writers this seems so 
extremely improbable that they are driven to supposing that 
Herodotus was misled by some similarity of name. It is 
supposed that the name Poseidon is connected with 77-00-19, 
7roTos, -n-oraixos, but in early times Poseidon was regarded not as 
ruler of drinkable waters, but of the sea only. The opinion 
generally accepted is that Poseidon was deity of some sea-roving 
and fishing tribe of Hellenic or semi-Hellenic race, and from 
them adopted among Greeks generally. If so, we must place 
such adoption at a very early period indeed, for among iEolians, 
Achaeans, and Ionians, the worship of Poseidon is of a widespread 
character and has every appearance of being ancestral. He was 
the reputed father of many heroes, the founders of great houses, 
and disputed the possession of Athens with Athena, and the 
possession of Corinth with Helios. 

The two chief functions of Poseidon seem at first sight to be 
somewhat inconsistent one with the other. Poseidon is on the 
one hand god of the sea, of its waves and storms, and of earth- 
quakes, and on the other hand as Hippius the giver to mankind 
of the horse, the patron of horse-races and the ancestor of 
chivalrous races of horsemen. It is strange that sailors and 
cavalry should have the same special patron. Welcker shows 
in a learned passage that in many countries ships are spoken 
of as horses, and that it is a natural image of poetry to compare 
waves which race and gallop to white-maned horses. 2 This is 
true, yet we are scarcely disposed to consider the aptness of 
these comparisons a sufficient reason for attributing the patron- 
ship of horses and ships to the same deity. There are probably 
historical reasons for the phenomenon. In Greece the same 
races were renowned for riding and sailing. Thessaly was the 

1 ii. 50. -' Or. (i'tttrlchrc, i. 632. 


great seat of the chivalrous aristocracy who established the 
cultus of Poseidon Hippius, and it was from a Thessalian harbour 
that the Argonauts sailed to bring home the golden fleece. The 
Boeotians and the Minyse were alike renowned for cavalry and 
ships. So were the Tarentines. Taras was regarded as a son 
of Poseidon, and in his city of Tarentum the cultus of Poseidon 
was firmly established ; and at the same time the people of 
that city were noted for their love of horses. Their coins 
commonly bear on one side Taras riding on a dolphin, on the 
other Taras or Phalanthus riding a horse. The Dioscuri too, 
the mythical horsemen par excellence, were especially gods of 

In Greece proper there were several renowned seats of 
Poseidon. On the Isthmus of Corinth was a noted temple 
dedicated to him, surrounded by a sacred temenos, which was 
the scene of the famous Isthmian games, games in which a 
considerable part was taken by horse-races, and in which boats 
would seem to have competed. 1 At Sunium, where Attica juts 
out into the sea, there was another important Poseidium, of 
which interesting remains are still to be seen. But it was 
among the cities of the Achaean shore that this deity was most 
highly esteemed, at iEgae and Helice, where, according to 
Homer, the Ionians brought him splendid presents and sacrificed 
bulls in his honour. The horse-loving aristocracy of Thessaly 
and Boeotia had many temples of Poseidon, and his figure or his 
symbols are frequent on coins of those districts. To the special 
pantheon of the Dorians he seems on the other hand to have 
been a stranger ; and it is noteworthy that the Dorians, stalwart 
spearmen as they were, were scarcely at home either at sea or 
in the saddle. 

In Asia Minor the most noted seat of the god was the 
Panionium at the foot of Mount Mycale, where assembled in 
his honour representatives of the Ionian cities of Asia Minor. 
There until late times was held a sacred festival and games, as 
at all the great seats of the gods ; and the temple served as a 
tie to bind together the great cities of the coast, and to remind 
them of their common origin as contrasted with that of less 
civilised neighbours. 

Poseidon as recognised ruler of waters stood at the head of a 
large class of deities who dwelt in and ruled sea and river. 
Some of these, such as Nereus and Triton, seem more strictly 
elemental beings than Poseidon himself, and may have been in- 

1 See the Journal of Hellenic Studies, ii. 315. 


troduced earlier than lie into the pantheon of the Greeks. But 
these were scarcely objects of worship in historical times ; they 
were spoken of in mythological poems, and sometimes represented 
in works of art, but it was not to them that sailors prayed in 
distress or dedicated pictures on their safe return home. In 
the later art of Greece, beginning from the time of Praxiteles 
and Scopas, sea-demons, called by the generic name of Tritons, 
and sea-nymphs who sported with them amid the waves, to- 
gether with sea-horses, sea-bulls, and other imagined monsters 
occupy a great space. They are as familiar to all lovers of 
Greek art as are the Satyrs and Panisci and Nymphs, who are 
their counterpart on dry land. But these are the creation of 
Greek artistic fancy and not of the religious needs of the people ; 
they arose more from the love of beauty than from religious 

On the other hand the deities of rivers and the Nymphs of 
springs were the objects of real worship. Achelous at Dodona 
and Alpheius at Olympia stood in close connection with the 
greatest of Greek temples and received continual sacrifices. 
Even lesser streams had their shrines and altars, and Hesiod l 
bids his countrymen not to cross a river before washing their 
hands and praying, looking earnestly the while at the stream. 
Shrines of the Nymphs must have been among the commonest 
features of Greek pastoral scenes, by every flowing stream and 
in every cave. The Nymphs were regarded with awe as the 
beings who often brought youths and maidens to an untimely 
end, carrying them off like Hylas. They were looked on as 
the principle of life and growth, and of individuality in spring 
or tree or glen, the soul of nature diffused everywhere through 
its body. 

Not one of the deities of Olympus is of loftier stamp or more 
purely Hellenic character than Pallas Athena. The noble 
conceptions formed of her have both in ancient and modern 
times somewhat concealed her physical origin, and made it less 
obvious which of the elements of the physical universe is 
embodied in her person. According to Welcker she represents 
the aether, that substance which plays a great part in the 
theories, half physical, half metaphysical, of ancient philo- 
sophers. x'Ether was supposed to be a substance bounding the 
heavens above, the source of light ; and at the same time 
diffused through plants and animals as the source of their life 
and energy. Sauer and Roscher prefer to consider her as the 

1 Works and Days, 735. 


impersonation of the lightning and a deity of storm. Athena 
is born from the brain of Zeus, is his favourite daughter, and 
bears the aegis, the symbol of storm and thunder. Athena has 
close relations with Hephaestus ; these receive an explanation 
when we think of both as spirits of fire and lightning. She is 
patroness of thought and of wisdom ; and we reflect that, by 
the ancients, thought in man was supposed to be due to the 
presence of heavenly light and fire. Athena also, like almost 
all Greek goddesses, is not free from an admixture of lunar 

It has been observed 1 that a close parallel to Athena in 
several of her functions is to be found in the German Valkyrie, 
the daemon alike of storm and battle, who at the same time, 
like Athena, is cunning in the works of the loom. 

In a fine passage, the twenty-eighth Homeric Hymn tells how 
in the solemn assembly of the gods Athena leapt suddenly from 
the head of Zeus, spear in hand, and glistening in golden 
armour ; how wonder held all the immortals, while earth shook 
and foam leapt forth from the sea, and the son of Hyperion 
stayed his swift steeds in the sky. It is difficult to read the 
passage without finding in it a mythical version of the facts of 
the storm ; and it is but another reading of the same facts 
when Athena is described as most conspicuous among the gods 
in that great battle with the Giants, which is prominent alike 
in Greek mythology and Greek art. 

The great seat of Athena in historical times was of course 
Athens, the city which bore her name, and the personality of 
which she entirely embodies. In the reliefs at the head of 
treaties and other such documents, Athena always appears as 
the sole representative of Athens ; and on Athenian coins, from 
the earliest to the latest days of coinage, her effigy is all but 
invariable. She is involved also in all the most ancient of 
Athenian legends. Erechtheus, the original serpent-footed 
inhabitant of the country, from whom later Athenians were 
derived, was regarded as her special favourite. He no doubt 
would have been represented as her son, but that her virginity 
was part of the current legend ; he was therefore regarded as 
son of Hephaestus and Ge, but received at his birth by Athena, 
and by her handed over to the fostering care of her priestesses, 
the daughters of Cecrops, Herse, Aglauros, and Pandrosos. 
These priestesses play an important part in Athenian legend, 
and they are as embodiments of dew inseparable from the 

1 Roscher, Lexicon, p. 675. 


cultus of Athena. Cecrops their father learned from Athena 
the secrets of agriculture, and received the gift of the olive, 
most precious of trees to the Greeks. Thus in the early 
legend the goddess appears as patroness of country life and 
agriculture ; it was not until Athens became rich and populous 
that she appears in Attica as a stately city goddess. 

But it would be a mistake to suppose that Athena was at 
Athens a single and definite personality. Rather we notice in 
this case prominently a phenomenon familiar to all who study 
Greek religious belief, several forms of the same deity existing 
side by side, distinguished by varying surname and attribute, 
and regarded in popular belief as actually distinct. On the 
Athenian Acropolis the temple of Athena Polias was distinct 
from the temple of Athena Nike ; and in the narrow limits 
of Attica there were many other recognised forms of Athena 
which must be studiously kept apart. At Alalcomenae was 
a very ancient shrine, and the title 'AAaAKo/xev^t? is applied 
to Athena even by Homer. Then there was a temple of 
Athena Sciras on the sacred way, which was a great place for 
casting lots. In Athens also were shrines of Athena Ergane, 
Athena Hippia, Athena Hygieia, and each of these surnames 
indicates a new set of attributes appropriated to Athena, and 
a fresh pursuit placed under her patronage and protection. 

Probably the common people of Athens could scarcely rise 
above these distinctions, or see in all local forms the same 
Olympian deity variously revealed ; but the more educated, who 
of course formed a larger proportion of the population at Athens 
than at other cities, were capable of such abstraction, and really 
thought of Athena as she appears to us in the evidence of 
poems and dramas and works of sculpture, as the pure and 
high-minded virgin, who shared the counsels of Zeus and im- 
parted of her abundant wisdom to men : the lofty patroness 
who founded the Athenian state and still upheld it in a 
thousand dangers, giving its statesmen wisdom, and diffusing 
through the breasts of its soldiers valour, such as in days long 
gone by she had bestowed on Herakles and Tydeus and 
Odysseus ; receiving from the hands of the Athenian people 
all that they had best to bestow of art and poetry, and in 
return blessing the givers of these gifts with tenfold increase 
so that their city shone throughout Hellas as the queen of 
wisdom and the mistress of beauty. 

If we enter into the feelings of the Greeks, we shall find 
it easy to discern the connection of the various attributes of 
Athena. The poets, as is well known, did not make dis- 


tinction between the moral and the intellectual qualities of 
men : both alike they considered to be the fruit of the heart. 
And Athena, by strengthening and inspiring men's hearts, could 
give them courage for the conflict, and at the same time wisdom 
in council. Her especial favourites, such as Diomedes and 
Odysseus, were noted alike for prudence and courage. The 
great Pheidian statue of Pallas on the Acropolis towered above 
the city, and seemed a standing menace to any invading host. 
Nike was the attendant and servant of all the greatest gods, 
but of Pallas she was the second self and invariable companion, 
ever flying at her bidding, and yet being always near her. The 
wingless Nike of the Acropolis was only Athena herself in 
varied form ; and as Athena gave wisdom and courage, so 
she bestowed skill on those engaged in craft and handiwork. 
Athena Ergane was, as Sophocles says, venerated by all the 
working-people (7ra? 6 yetp&va^ Aews). She was patroness alike 
of architect and sculptor, of carpenter and potter. And women's 
work was in a still fuller degree hers : none could, like her, 
teach to hold the distaff and spin the thread, or give such skill 
in the arts of the housewife. 

As PovXata, Athena controlled the deliberations of the 
Athenian senate ; as dyopala, she guided the popular assembly, 
and dominated the market-place. As IWta, she took the place 
held in Thessaly and Boeotia by Poseidon, as guardian of the 
knightly houses of the people, and patroness of equestrian 
shows and exercises ; as vyUia, she stood beside Asklepius in 
imparting healing gifts to men. In short, Avhatever an 
Athenian was doing from morning to night, it was almost 
sure to be something wherein Athena could give him aid : 
wherever he went, he could not escape her guidance and con- 
trol. In her constant presence he lived, and she represented 
to him the ever-present eye of heaven looking down on his 

Though thus venerated only at Athens, Athena was by no 
means unknown in other cities, some of which, such as Rhodes, 
even claimed an older cultus than that of Athens. At Sparta 
there was an ancient temple lined with plates of bronze and 
dedicated to Athena, who was the protecting goddess of the 
city. At Argos, Athena was held in only somewhat less honour 
than Hera ; at Tegea was the great temple of Athena Alea 
where the goddess was regarded as potent over agriculture. 
The number of effigies of Athena which occur on Greek coins 
is enormous ; a very large proportion of cities which issue coin 
use this type at some period, and in dozens of places in Italy, 


Sicily, Northern Greece, Peloponnesus, Asia Minor, it is the 
leading device, indicating that these cities regarded her as their 
principal deity, ttoAioux ? Btd. One of these cities deserves 
special mention, the Greek Ilium, which was noted, from the 
time of Crcesus onwards at all events, for its temple of Athena 
Uias. On the coins of Ilium the temple-statue frequently 
appears, an archaic figure bearing in one hand a lance, in the 
other a spindle, and thus conformable to the words of the Iliad, 
which speak of the Trojan goddess as equally conversant with 
the arts of the heroes who wielded spear and shield, and those 
of the women who held the distaff and twined the thread. In 
the ancient temples of Hellas were a multitude of archaic 
figures of Pallas, representing her in full panoply, and a number 
of these claimed to be the actual Palladium of Troy, which was 
either stolen by Diomedes or borne away by iEneas. The multi- 
tude of these images, and the wide extent of land over which 
they were spread from Rome to Asia Minor, is the best proof 
of the great antiquity and universality of the worship of an 
armed goddess. This armed goddess, when thoroughly natura- 
lised in Greek belief, necessarily took the form of Athena, 
though it is by no means impossible that the images were in 
the first instance imported from the East, and were intended by 
1 1 e workmen who produced them for the Sidonian Astarte, or 
some other martial goddess of the Asiatic peoples. 

Among all the deities of the Greeks, the one who least lost 
his primitive and material signification was Hephaestus. Heph- 
aestus was placed at Athens in close relations with Athena, 
especially in the matter of the birth of Erichthonius. The 
Chalkeia were at that city celebrated in honour of Hephaestus 
and Athena Ergane, both of whom protected in common certain 
trades, such as those of smith and armourer. But the special 
home of the cultus of Hephaestus was the island of Lemnos 
on the Thracian coast. That island was the seat of volcanic 
phenomena, and contains an extinct volcano called Mosychlus, 
at the foot of which was the town of Hephaestia and the temple 
of Hephaestus. Among the Greeks generally, the cultus of fire 
had almost died out, or had become attached to Hestia and the 
daemons of the hearth ; but a more defined cultus remained 
among the dwellers in the Thracian islands; and Hephaestus 
is the embodiment of fire, alike when he falls like lightning 
from heaven, hurled out by his angry father Zeus to fall on the 
island of Lemnos, and when he is busy in caves and under- 
ground dwellings, as the hidden fire which underlies the earth 
and occasionally bursts through its crust in earthquakes and 


volcanoes. And like the fire in smithies he is the tamer and 
moulder of bronze and gold and silver, working them into fresh 
forms of art and beauty. Like flames too he is in his motions 
unsteady and oscillating. 

At Lemnos then Hephaestus retained through historical times 
what we may conceive to have been his original character of a 
deity of fire in all its forms. And we find the same character 
attaching to him in a few other places, such as JEtna, in Sicily 
and Li para, places where there either was volcanic power in 
activity or the Phoenician settlers had left traditions of their 
Cabeiric deities who worked in metal. There was something 
of this loftier conception current at Athens, or the Athenians 
would never have thought Hephaestus a worthy companion for 
Athena. Hephaestus figures largely in Homer as well as in 
certain early legends, such as that which tells how he assisted 
at the birth of Athena by opening the head of Zeus with his 
axe. But in most parts of Greece he was merely the deity of 
the members of a particular trade, that of workers in metal, 
and outside the religious feelings and observances of the most 
of the people. 

Hermes was, as we have seen, of no great account in the 
Homeric Olympus. But the longest of the hymns which bear 
Homer's name is composed in his honour ; we should perhaps 
rather say that it is concerned with him, for it does not reflect 
much honour on him, and is far indeed from the modern 
conception of a hymn. Hermes was born one morning of 
Maia on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia ; by mid-day he had already 
made his great invention of the lyre, which he formed of the 
shell of a gigantic land tortoise, such as existed among the 
Arcadian hills. In the evening he proceeded to steal the oxen 
of Apollo, dragging them backwards into his cave in Cyllene. 
Apollo, after a while, discovered his loss, and, tracing the oxen 
to the cave, entered and found Hermes, an infant asleep in his 
cradle, who denied at once any complicity in the theft, pointing 
to the absurdity of supposing that a mere babe could plan a 
great theft. Apollo summoned him to the presence of Zeus, and 
even then he persisted in his tale with effrontery : in vain, for 
Zeus obliged him to reveal the place where the oxen were 
hidden. But even yet he understood how to pacify the just 
wrath of Apollo by j^resenting him with the lyre which he had 
invented. With this Apollo was so fascinated that he not 
only forgave the theft but promised Hermes that he should 
in future be his chosen friend and companion among the im- 
mortals, and gave him the staff of wealth and prosperity, with 


rule over flocks and herds, wild creatures, and horses in the 
stall. Only the gift of prophecy Apollo cannot impart to him, 
much as he desires it : that he is bound by a vow not to 
bestow on any one. 

In this legendary poem we see traces of the principal func- 
tions fulfilled by Hermes in mythology. The view strongly 
advocated by Koscher, and now generally accepted, is that in 
origin Hermes was a god of the wind, and so of the swift 
changes of the sky, especially at sunrise and sunset. From 
this primary notion Roscher tries to derive all the functions 
exercised by Hermes in later myth. Some of his explanations 
seem reasonable : the least satisfactory of them is that which 
constitutes the god of wind a herdsman's deity, and ruler of 
flocks and herds. 

It is certain that from early Pelasgic times Hermes was 
regarded as presiding over the propagation and increase of 
flocks and herds. He was a shepherd's and herdsman's god in 
the primitive district of Arcadia ; and in the Pelasgic island 
of Samothrace he was worshipped in a very naive fashion as 
patron of propagation, the ram being his sacred animal. Even 
in Homer there is a strain of coarseness in Hermes, who is 
made in the lay of Demodocus to declare that he would accept 
the humiliating position of Ares, if he might thereby gain the 
favour of Aphrodite ; and in the Arcadian stories he is almost 
as random in his amours as Pan and the Satyrs. In the 
Hesiodic Theor/ony he is spoken of as the increaser of cattle ; 
and as in early times men's wealth consisted of flocks and 
herds, it need not surprise us that a deity of propagation 
should become the giver of wealth and prosperity. 

The history of the cultus of Hermes is very instructive. He 
plays but a poor part in early legend, and never at any time 
bears a high character like those of Apollo and Athena, yet 
he is continually growing in favour with the people, and con- 
stantly receiving fresh functions, until in later Greek times he 
is one of the most frequently invoked and universally culti- 
vated of all Hellenic deities. Out of Arcadia he had few 
great temples, but few towns were without some sanctuary of 
Hermes, and little chapels built in his honour were scattered 
along all roads and over all fields. His physical meaning was 
lost sight of, but as people had learned to regard him as giver 
1 4 wealth, of eloquence, and other good things, which are much 
sought after in wealthy and progressive communities, he never 
lost his hold on the affections of the people until paganism 
entirely decayed. Even in latest times he divided with Tvxf 



or Fortune the homage of those who, in their hearts, believed in 
no god but the Emperor and his representatives. Yet how little 
respect was mingled with this universal worship may be judged 
from the concluding phrase of the Homeric Hymn — 

iravpa pikv ovv ovcvrja-u to <$' anpirov rj7T€po7rev€t 
vvKra 8t 6p<f>vairjv (fivXa dv^roiv dvOpw-iruiv. 

As Hermes is the divine herald, so he has already in the 
Odyssey become on occasions the messenger who announces to 
deities and to men the solemn decrees of Olympus. And this 
heraldic function of his is in later times much enlarged, Iris 
retiring into the background. He becomes the messenger of 
the gods in all things : thus it 'is he who has control of dreams, 
dreams which hover about us most often in the dawn, which 
is the time of Hermes' influence. Those which he sends are 
sometimes meant to deceive and mislead, but they must never 
be wholly despised, since sometimes they convey the counsel 
and will of Zeus himself. And Hermes is also intrusted with 
the function of leading away those to whose life the gods and 
fate have put an end, and introducing them to the realm of 
shades below. For this reason a sacrifice was at Argos offered 
to him 1 by the friends of one who had died, thirty days after 
the burial. And thus he is represented in art and legend as 
the guide of Herakles Orpheus and other mortals who ventured 
to penetrate into the world below. He is also often depicted 
as engaged in other business on behalf of the gods, bearing 
young Dionysus to the care of Nysa, or carrying young Areas. 

To heralds the gift of eloquence was essential, and so Hermes, 
as deity of the guild of heralds, was patron of eloquence. 
Ready of speech and quick of resource, he was high in favour 
among the quick-witted and not over-scrupulous. The eloquence 
of St. Paul caused him to be taken at Lystra for Hermes, and 
Hermes Aoyios was the special deity of orators and pleaders. 
By a natural association the god of eloquence was also supposed 
to be skilled in all arts and attainments. " By favour of 
Hermes," says Odysseus, 2 who " gives grace and glory to all 
men's work, no mortal may vie with me in the business of a 
serving-man." In this aspect, Hermes was sometimes associated 
with Athena and set over all skilled labour of handicraft. 
Commerce is the natural complement of manufacture^ and this 
was in a still more special manner put under the patronage 

1 Plutarch, Qu. Grcec. 24. 2 Od. xv. 319. 


of Hermes. As dyopalos he watched over most markets, and as 
Sufxiropos granted a good market to merchants, and inspired 
them with lucky ideas as to the selection of an object of 
commerce or a time of sailing. But the connection of this 
clever and inventive being with commerce would scarcely 
tend to raise its character : the Greek merchants, like their 
Phoenician predecessors, were too much given to double- 
dealing and cheating ; and they might easily fancy that their 
persons would be scarcely less acceptable to their guardian 
deity in consequence of any little peculations. In outwitting 
their customers they only followed in his steps. Indeed, the 
Greeks did not hesitate to go further still. As every craft 
and guild had a special deity, thieves must have one too, and 
Hermes 86\ios was appropriated by them as bestower of their 
unjust gains and their teacher in the arts of trickery and 

Far more respectable was another function of Hermes, that 
of overlooking palaestrae and encouraging athletic sports. His 
appropriateness in this connection arises from the fact that 
the Greeks in all their contests valued skill and address far 
more than mere force, and reserved their loudest applause 
for those competitors who by means of science vanquished 
those more robust than themselves. At the entrance of the 
Stadium at Olympia were two altars, one of Kcupds, Oppor- 
tunity, and one of Hermes evaytovios, implying that in order 
to win, an athlete must do the right thing at the right time. 
His skill enabled Hermes to hold his own in boxing against 
Ares. In later sculpture he is represented as the model of a 
slender but highly trained Ephebus, who might well win in run- 
ning or the pentathlon, while Herakles is made on the model of 
the brawny wrestler or pancratiast ; and Herakles and Hermes 
itood Bide by side in many gymnasia as overlookers. 

Small figures of Hermes, or rather heads of Hermes placed 
on Bquare columns, were of frequent occurrence alike in country 
and town. In the fields they marked the boundaries of fields 
and estates, giving a sacred character to the landmarks which 
divided the lands of individuals and of communities, or they 
indicated even at a distance the course of roads over the hills, 
roads not easily made nor frequent among the rocks and 
torrents of Greece. In the cities they were not less common, 
and in particular were a feature of the streets of Athens. The 
dwellers in the houses near by would, on festal occasions, 
deck these rude figures with crowns and flowers, and strong 
testimony to the attachment of the people to them is to be 


found in the account given by Thucydides of their consterna- 
tion on discovering the mutilation by Alcibiades. But these 
Hermse, like the pillar-shaped images of Apollo ayvievs, which 
stood near them, were more like the Lares and Penates of the 
Romans than the embodiments of actual Olympian deities. 

A sort of double or reflection of the Arcadian Hermes, the 
god of flocks and herds, was Pan, the goat-footed shepherd's 
god. Pan was more local in character than almost any Greek 
deity : he belongs originally to Arcadia and even to the dis- 
trict about the Lycaean mountain. The superstitious rustics 
of that district honoured him with firstlings of their flocks, and 
dreaded to disturb Pan as he lay in the caves in his mid-day 
slumber, for his temper was not light when he was provoked. 
From Arcadia the superstition spread into other pastoral 
districts. But we might have heard little of Pan but for his 
connection with the battle of Marathon, when he aided the 
Athenians and spread panic terror through the ranks of the 
barbarians. Henceforth, following the impulse of Miltiades, 
the Athenians adopted Pan, consecrating to him the grotto on 
the side of the Acropolis hill, and dedicating to him and the 
Nymphs many of the woodland glades and caves in the Attic 
hills. And the second school of Attic sculptors fully intro- 
duced Pan into art, associating him with the rout of Dionysus, 
and multiplying him for the purposes of their craft into a 
crowd of goat-hoofed and horned Daemons to sport with Nymphs 
and to be the prey of Eros. 

Ares is a deity whose cultus certainly receded into the 
background in the historic age. It is true that he was regarded 
as a son of Zeus and Hera and the deity of war. Yet he is 
not prominent on coins or in the pages of Pausanias, and was 
certainly one of the less regarded of the Olympian gods. His 
fall had begun before the days of Homer, who treats him with 
scanty respect. Yet we can find in Greece traces of his early 
worship on many sites. At Olympia he gave way to Zeus, to 
whom he bequeathed the surname "Apecos. The name Areio- 
pagus at Athens was a standing testimony of a time when the 
hill was dedicated to Ares. 1 But the district especially con- 
nected with Ares was Boeotia, called by iEschylus ycua? ir&ov 
-njo-S' "A/jetov, and notably Thebes. 

The noble families of Thebes were termed Sparti, and said 
to be born with the mark of a spear on their bodies : in these 

1 Some recent writers, however, connect the name Areiopagus with dpai 
(hill of curses), rather than Ares. 


Mays was indicated their connection with Cadmus, the an- 
cestral Theban hero, who married llarmonia, the daughter of 
Ares, and founded the Theban commonwealth. In the Cad- 
mean circle of legends Ares appears as the local deity. Like 
other Theban deities, Ares had his primitive seat in Thrace. 
Herodotus speaks of Ares Dionysus and Artemis (Cotytto) as 
the principal Thracian deities j and it was especially in Thrace 
and Macedon that Ares was worshipped in historical times. 

After the Roman conquest of Greece, Ares being identified 
with Mars, the father of Romulus and a god of much account 
among the warlike nations of Italy, recovered something of his 
ancient consideration. 

The meaning of the Cadmean legends has been a matter of 
much dispute. Formerly they were regarded as establishing be- 
yond dispute the existence of a Phoenician element in Boeotia. 
To this view, however, there are grave objections. Thebes is 
not the kind of site which attracted the people of Tyre and 
Sidon, and the Boeotians are connected alike by legend and 
the probability of the matter rather with Thessaly than with 
Phoenicia. We are in fact at present unable to determine the 
ethnic origin of the ancient race of Thebes ; but we pass from 
the field of conjecture to that of certainty when we recognise 
the fact that certain of the Greek deities and heroes had some 
of their most ancient votaries among the Cadmeians. These 
are Ares and Dionysus, and in a somewhat less degree, Herakles, 
Hephaestus, Aphrodite, and Demeter. 

The Greeks accepted the foreign origin of Aphrodite, yet 
somewhat strangely she appears in early literature as the 
daughter of Zeus and Dione, the primitive Dodonaean deities, 
who are essentially Hellenic. This is the ancestry attributed 
to the goddess by Homer ; but Hesiod has quite another 
account. In the Tlieogony l he makes her spring from the 
blood of Cronus after his mutilation by Zeus, and tells how 
she arose from the sea and made her way to Cyprus and 
Cythera. One of the few poetical lines of the dull Tlieogony 
is that which relates how around her tender feet the grass 
sprang when she reached the Cyprian strand. A beautiful 
Homeric hymn relates the visit of Aphrodite in the guise of a 
mortal maiden to Anchises as he lay with his flocks, and tells 
how she inspired him with passion and afterwards disclosed 
herself to him as the daughter of Zeus. This narration shows 
that the Trojan legends were mingled with those of Syria in 

1 Lines 191-200. 


the history of Aphrodite as accepted by the Greeks, even in 
early times. In Cyprus itself, however, the legendary lover 
of the goddess was not Anchises but Adonis, whose cult was 
imported with hers from Syria. 1 

Eryx in Sicily was an early seat of the worship of Aphro- 
dite, said to have been carried thither by Phoenician settlers. 
Ancient temples of the goddess were to be found in many 
Greek cities, often connected with traditions of the same 
race. In some cases the archaic statues of the goddess were 
armed, in this reminding us of the figure of Astarte, who 
was a warlike goddess as well as an amorous. In various cities 
the character attaching to the worship of Aphrodite greatly 
varied, changing with the character of the people and their 
tendencies, more severe in Sparta, dissolute at Corinth, and 
so forth. Everywhere, however, she represented human love, 
whether a higher or a lower phase of it ; to excite the philo- 
progenitiveness of animals was not her task but that of Hermes 
and Pan ; and fertility of crops was the gift of Demeter. 
Only the philosophers like Democritus made of Aphrodite the 
principle of engendering and of growth in all parts of the 

At Athens, according to Xenophon, 2 there were separate 
shrines of Aphrodite Urania and Aphrodite Pandemos, and 
the sacrifices and ceremonies of the former were more chaste, 
those of the latter more impure. Xenophon makes Socrates 
ascribe to Pandemos sensual passion, and to Urania the love 
of the spirit. It is possible that in later time the mere name 
Urania, which was applied to Astarte as a moon-goddess, was 
misunderstood and supposed to imply a moral elevation. 

In later times the connection of Aphrodite with the sea 
was not dropped. In art she frequently appears in connection 
with dolphins and sea-monsters, and she rules the rough hosts 
of Tritons and Nymphs. Art also associates her more and 
more closely as time goes on with Eros, not of course the 
cosmic Eros, the venerable deity who was worshipped at Thespise 
and Parium, but the youth who appears in the art of Pheidias 
and Praxiteles as a tall and pensive youth, and who becomes 
in later art a mere winged baby, lending himself to all sorts 
of scenes of genre, and forming an important element in the 
scenes where swarm the daemons of country and of sea. 

Of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, the chief local 

1 The question of the origin of the cultusof Aphrodite is discussed 
above, p. 86. 

2 Symposium, viii. 9. 


seat is of course Eleusis in Attica. The celebrated Homeric 
Hymn informs us what tales of these deities there had course. 
Persephone had been seized by Hades as she gathered flowers 
in a meadow, and carried to the world below. Demeter was 
seized with uncontrollable grief at her loss, and knowing not 
whither she had been borne, wandered for nine days and nights 
in vain search. Then hearing the truth from Helios, she re- 
nounced the society of the gods and betook herself across the 
lands to Eleusis, where she entered the service of King Celeus, 
and was intrusted with the nursing of his son Demophon. 
Him she set about rendering immortal, feeding him with, 
ambrosia by day, and plunging him in the fire at night ; but 
this process was stayed through the motherly terrors of 
Mataneira the queen. Indignant at the spoiling of her plans, 
the goddess could only be propitiated if a temple were built 
her on the spot. Gladly the people set about raising one, 
and there for a year the goddess dwelt apart, a year terrible 
to the dwellers on the earth, for she withheld her aid, and 
the corn rose not out of the ground. The whole race would 
have perished had not Zeus determined to pacify the irate 
goddess by restoring her beloved daughter. Persephone came 
back to earth ; but the restoration could not be permanent, 
for in the realm below, Hades had persuaded her to taste a 
grain of pomegranate, which prevented her from remaining 
for the whole year away from him. Henceforth then she led 
an alternating life, abiding eight months on the green earth 
and four in the realms of the dead. Demeter returned to 
Olympus ; but before she went she imparted to the daughters 
of Celeus and to her favourite Triptolemus, details of the 
services to be done in her honour, and of the mysteries 
which were to remain a constant memorial of the return of 

The physical meaning of this myth is so clear that it seems 
scarcely to need explanation. Demeter, yyj /jmJtijp, as the 
ancients themselves explained the name, is the fruitful earth ; 
Persephone is the springing corn which lies hidden for months 
as seed in the realms of darkness and night, and then arises 
to gladden the eyes and the hearts of men. The earth in 
winter mourns the death of vegetation, which is wasted by 
the destroyer and carried into the unseen country, and is once 
more pacified when it appears in spring. The whole cultus 
of Demeter and Persephone is based on these ideas ; and 
that cultus seems to belong to a different, perhaps a more 
primitive layer of beliefs than most of those of Greece. The 


ancients considered Demeter to be a Pelasgic deity ; and the 
distribution of her temples shows that she belongs to the 
more primitive Greek races rather than those which are more 
prominent in later times. Pelasgians, according to Callimachus, 1 
planted in Dotian territory, near Lake Boebeis in Thessaly, 
a grove in honour of Demeter. In Argos was a temple of 
Demeter Pelasgis. At Thermopylae an annual festival was 
celebrated in honour of Demeter, who was one of the chief 
protecting deities of the ancient Amphictionic League. At 
Thebes, the temple of Demeter was considered a foundation 
of Cadmus himself, 2 and in the Phcenissce of Euripides 3 the 
Chorus calls on Ge, on Demeter, and Persephone as the original 
deities of the land. In Attica, not only have we Eleusis 
with its very ancient temple and primitive mysteries handed 
down from early inhabitants of the country, but at Athens 
itself the Thesmophoria, which were celebrated in her honour, 
were some of the oldest and most splendid ceremonies of the 
city, and in the opinion of some modern scholars earlier than 
the Ionian conquest. In Peloponnesus the worship of Demeter 
was firmly established in early times, especially in Messenia, 
where mysteries were celebrated in her honour at Andania 
as to which we can recover many details from inscriptions, 4 
and in Arcadia. In the later age of Greece we find the head 
of Demeter on the coins of the Messenians when restored 
to their city by Epaminondas, of Pheneus, and other places ; 
and Demeter Panachaea was one of the chief deities of the 
Achaean League. On the other hand we do not find that 
the Dorians had any original cultus of Demeter ; and she 
was perhaps only borrowed by the Achaean and Ionian 

We may more readily understand the distribution of the 
temples of Demeter if we consider the nature of the gifts which 
she bestowed on men : she is the fruitful land which causes 
the seed sown in it to spring into leaf and to give fruit ; and 
legends ascribed to her the instruction of mankind in ploughing 
and harrowing, and in gathering and winnowing the grain. 
To her favourite, Triptolemus, she imparted the knowledge of 
husbandry, and despatched him on her own car drawn by 
winged serpents, to pass through the lands, and dispense every- 
where alike the seed of corn and knowledge of its culture ; 
and she was said to have bestowed her favour on Iasion, when 

1 In Cer. 25. 2 Pans. ix. 16, 5. 

3 L. 686. 4 See the chapter on Mysteries. 


he had led her into a field which had been thrice ploughed in 
Crete, bearing to him a child named Plutus, an allegory of 
easy interpretation. We should then expect that she would 
be held in honour by the early inhabitants of the fertile 
Thessalian plain, and in agricultural Boeotia, the country of the 
Works and Days, and in Attica, which prided itself on the 
antiquity and goodness of its agriculture. The wide spread of 
the cultus during historical times was greatly aided, probably, 
by the high favour wherein the Eleusinian Mysteries were 
held throughout Hellas. As paganism declined, their lustre 
became brighter, and people came from far-distant lands to be 
initiated. Knowing these facts, we may be less surprised that 
corn-growing Sicily was regarded as an island entirely devoted 
to the service of Demeter and Persephone ; and in the times 
of Roman dominion no deity was more popularly worshipped 
in Peloponnesus. 

Demeter, however, was the giver of more than mere corn. 
As Q€a-fxo(f)6po<5 she was the foundress of stable institutions, and 
the regulator of political life in countries. It is scarcely at 
first sight clear how this can be the province of a goddess of 
agriculture, much as agriculture does to settle and make steady 
the lives of men. But the Thesmophoric feasts, which existed 
in many Greek states, including Athens, were essentially festivals 
of matrons, who excluded men from them. Demeter is emi- 
nently the matronly goddess and patroness of marriage. We 
can think of several ways in which wedlock and agriculture 
may be connected, and it is even possible that the ancients 
had made the generalisation that nations devoted to agri- 
culture are usually monogamous, those given to pasture poly- 
gamous, and therefore holding women in less esteem. No 
doubt the exact nature of the institutions due to the influence 
of Demeter was in time forgotten, and she was regarded as the 
lover of all that was stable in law, of time-honoured custom, 
and ancient privilege. So, to Triptolemus legend ascribed three 
commandments : that men should honour their parents, offer 
to the gods fruits, and be gentle to animals. And so at Athens, 
the command to honour one's parents was closely attached to 
the service of the agrarian Athena. 

Persephone is almost always closely associated in cultus 
either with her mother, of whom she is in many places a sort 
of duplicate, or with Hades. Hades and Persephone occupied 
a very prominent place in the Greek mind, as undisputed 
king and queen of that unseen world into which, after long 
or short time, all go down. But the Greek idea of death was 


gloomy and with small admixture of hope : a hundred epitaphs 
and epigrams speak of the sacred pair, but usually as the 
hard-hearted abbreviators of human life, and as the great 
separators of lovers and friends, beings stern and pitiless, and 
the dispensers of small joy ; and though Death had in some 
places altars and priests, Hades had none. Pausanias l remarks 
that within the range of his observation, only the people of 
Elis had altars and litany to Hades. 2 And indeed of what 
avail could prayers be when addressed to one who never 
spared ? And the same absence of worship as a rule tinged 
the thoughts of the Greeks with regard to Persephone, when 
considered as a chthonic goddess. 

According to Herodotus, the latest additions to the Greek 
pantheon were Dionysus and Pan. Pan was, as we know, 
practically added to it in the time of Miltiades ; Dionysus at 
an earlier and uncertain time, but later than that of Homer, 
However, both Pan and Dionysus had existed as deities in 
particular districts long before they were accepted by the 
Greeks in general. Dionysus appears to have been imported 
from Thrace, where, under the name Sabazius, he was from 
early times the object of an enthusiastic cultus, celebrated with 
wild orgies and excesses of every kind. The Thracians were 
of kindred race with Phrygians and Bithynians ; and the 
religion of all these races was penetrated by the same love of 
excitement, partly spiritual, but in a far greater degree physical, 
and leading to self-mutilations and sexual aberrations of an 
extreme kind. So we hear that the Thracian women and those 
of Macedon were in the habit of forming orgiastic choruses in 
honour of Dionysus, and retiring to the mountains, where they 
gave full vent to their frenzy. 

In Thrace were ancient oracles of Dionysus, such as that in 
the country of the Bisaltse, and the tribe of Bessi had a sort 
of hereditary right to furnish priests of Dionysus. 3 Even 
Homer knows the story of Lycurgus and Dionysus, which seems 
to contain in perverted form the key of Thracian mythology. 
It is related in the Iliad 4 how Lycurgus " chased through the 
goodly land of jSysa the nursing- mothers of frenzied Dionysus " 
(the Dionysiac Nymjms), and how Dionysus fled from him and 
hid beneath the waves and took refuge with Thetis. Lycurgus, 
the man hateful to the gods, seems to be Ares under another 

1 vi. 25, 3. 

2 Ancestor-worship is, however, scarcely to be distinguished from the 
worship of Hades. See Book ii. ch. I. 

3 Herod, vii. Ml. 4 vi. 129- 1 46. 


name, and the rivalry between him and Dionysus to point to 
some rivalry between their cults. The Homeric Hymn, on the 
other hand, has no Thracian tinge : it merely relates how 
Dionysus was captured by Tyrrhenian pirates as he wandered 
by the sea and carried away ; and how the bonds which they 
put upon him did not stay but slipped off, and how wine 
began to flow about the ship, and vine and ivy to climb the 
mast ; and how the god himself became a lion in the midst, 
and the sailors leapt in terror into the sea and were transformed 
into dolphins. Yet both these stories well characterise Dionysus 
as the Greeks thought of him, a young, blooming, and aggressive 
deity, everywhere invading and always in the end triumphant ; 
wandering about the lands at the head of his crowds of Satyrs 
and Maenads, and introducing far and wide the culture of the 
vine and the practice of the wild orgies in which he delighted. 

The Hellenic home of Dionysus was at Thebes. The Thebans 
found him a mother, Semele, whom they called daughter of 
Cadmus, and placed him among their ancestral deities. From 
Thebes the cultus passed south. It passed to Delphi, where 
Dionysus shared with Apollo the honours of worship, and was 
associated with him in legend. It passed to Athens, where 
from the earliest historic period Dionysus enjoyed a rare 

It is the association of the God of wine with Athens which 
has most contributed to his renown. It will not be forgotten 
that we owe to the Athenian Dionysia the origin alike of 
comedy and tragedy, and that during the time of Athenian 
greatness the festivals of Dionysus were a time, not merely of 
revelry and jollity, but of the highest intellectual enjoyment, 
and even of moral elevation and progress. In the same way 
the nightly revels and wine-drinkings, which were under the 
patronage of Dionysus, were varied on occasion by philosophic 
discussion and patriotic song, as well as by wild excess and 
debauchery. True to its origin, the Bacchic enthusiasm inspired 
sometimes religious and sometimes sensual passion. Not seldom 
did the Dionysiac fervour cause men to forget their dignity and 
women to take leave of their modesty, so that every kind of 
excess was almost openly committed, and we even hear of 
human sacrifices. To tear a child limb from limb seems to 
have been no unheard of proceeding at these festivals ; and the 
sacred legends justified such crimes by furnishing a host of 
precedents, in which, under the maddening influence of the god, 
parents had torn to pieces their children and even devoured 
raw the reeking limbs. With justice then the Dionysiac 


festivals received in some cities the name Agrionia or Agriania ; 
and we are inclined to justify the Romans, who, discover- 
ing that Dionysiac rites were making their way in Campania, 
sternly put them down at the cost of much bloodshed. 

The cultus of Dionysus became in the hands of Alexander 
the Great a weapon of considerable political avail. It served 
as a bond between Greek and Asiatic ; for the Greeks still 
retained in their worship of Dionysus rites scarcely different 
from those of the Phrygian Sabazius and the Lydian Bassareus. 
In the Cabul valley in ^North India the Macedonian army found 
a people who cultivated the vine and loved its juice, and who 
were willing to let the Greeks believe that they had been 
settled there by Dionysus. With these tribes the Greeks seem 
to have become friendly ; and from this period there prevailed 
those stories of the Indian campaigns of Dionysus, which were 
so largely current in later Greece, and which are related by 
Nonnus. In fact it is likely that the deity of Indian origin, 
whom the people of Cabul were ready to identify with Dionysus, 
was Siva. 

A particular form of Dionysus which belonged specially to 
Crete, and was thence diffused, especially by the agency of 
mysteries, was the chthonian deity Zagreus. Zagreus was said to 
be son of Zeus and Persephone, and was worshipped in taurine or 
semi-taurine form. In the legends of Zagreus, in the place of 
victims being torn in honour of the god, it is the god who is 
torn in pieces by the nefarious hands of Titans, who take ad- 
vantage of his youth to attract him into their power with play- 
things. Pallas rescues his bleeding heart and carries it to Zeus ; 
Demeter clothes it with a new body. Zagreus lives again, but 
lives as ruler of the world of shades, and as such receives the 
worship of a crowd of votaries. Of Zagreus we shall speak 
again when ^ye reach the subject of the mysteries. In Greece 
sacred tales took the place of a creed, and agreed with forms of 
worship, and it may easily be seen how well such a tale as that 
just mentioned would suit mystic ceremonies and enthusiastic 

Beside the deities we must for a moment place the greatest 
of Greek heroes, Heracles the Theban and Argive. To him the 
Greeks ascribed unlimited force and not less resolution and 
energy of soul ; he was the unconquered and unconquerable. 
Greek legend and Greek art were never tired of his feats, 
which are the theme of endless reliefs and paintings ; and the 
Hellenic mind seems to have particularly affected the tales of 
his victories over older deities : how he assisted Zeus in the 


Gigantomachy, how he wounded Hera in the breast and Apollo 
in the eye, how he planted an arrow in Hades himself and bore 
away the watch-dog Cerberus, how he lay in wait for Death and 
robbed him of his fair prey, Alcestis. Finally, having met and 
conquered a thousand perils, the Greeks represent him as 
winning a way to Olympus by his valour, and entering it as 
the favourite of Athena, and the husband of Hebe ; even the 
jealous anger of Hera giving way before his achievements. 

In later Greek times Herakles has almost entirely dropped 
the hero and assumed the god. We must bear in mind other 
lines of his derivation ; for he undoubtedly stands in many 
legends and traditions for the Tyrian sun-god Melkarth, and 
his character is as much derived from Phoenician as from 
Hellenic sources. But though Herakles was a god, and one of 
the most widely worshipped, yet his origin as son of a Theban 
woman was remembered enough to make him a greater favourite. 
As reverence for the gods declined, this parvenu, who had so 
often defeated and disgraced them, and finally forced his way 
into their ranks, became more and more popular, at all events 
with the common people. His aid was not unnaturally looked 
for when any difficult thing had to be done. He was also re- 
garded as able to turn aside evil from his votaries. Herakles, 
dAe^tKaKo? and o-o>T?j/3, had many an altar in the Greek cities : 
he was summoned by the sick to turn away the power of their 
diseases, and by husbandmen to avert blight and caterpillars. 
The class most devoted to him was, as was natural, athletes, he 
being the earliest and greatest of their class. His statue stood 
in the gymnasia, and his form, as represented in later art, was 
regarded as the model of an athlete of the heavier class, a 
wrestler or pancratiast. But respect for Herakles was not 
confined to the many, for educated people persuaded them- 
selves that his labours were undertaken unselfishly for the good 
of mankind, and philosophers even made him a pattern for 
conscientious youth, as did Prodicus in the well-known story of 
the choice of Herakles. 

But the recognised deities of Olympus were by no means the 
sole recipients of worship in Greece. Besides these there were 
a host of daemons of various kinds, which seem to have been 
endowed with reality in very various degrees, some being 
clearly recognised objects of cultus, others appearing to be mere 
abstractions, and inventions of poets and philosophers. Among 
these daemons many were specially attached to the train of 
some deity : the Erotes to Aphrodite, Satyrs to Dionysus, 
Tritons to Poseidon. But not rarely beings regarded as quite 


subordinate in most parts of Greece were in some local cult 
raised to a high place of honour. Eros was venerated beyond 
all deities at Thespiae in Boeotia; and the Graces or Charites 
were greatly honoured at Orchomenus. Nike, the personifica- 
tion of victory, was raised to the rank of an important deity at 
Olympia, where the games were placed, not unnaturally, under 
her tutelage, nor does any figure appear more constantly than 
hers on Greek coins. Of the same class was Eirene, who, in 
works of art, is scarcely to be discriminated from Nike. We 
hear of shrines erected at Sparta to $6f3os and to TtXus, two 
daemons whose power was not much felt practically in that 
city ; and at Olympia to Koupos, fitting opportunity, whom 
to know rightly was a great aid in any competition ; and 
to 'O/xovota, whom we may suppose to have watched over the 
many agreements and treaties of which memorials were there 
set up. In Arcadia they venerated as persons Bpovrq and 
Ao-rpa7nj, the thunder and lightning of Zeus. Temples were 
also raised to EiAeiflvta, the impersonation of child-bearing, 
whom the Greek woman who expected to become a mother 
was sure to venerate and present with offerings ; in the Homeric 
Hymn to Apollo, however, this being is considered as having 
little power or will apart from those of her mistress, Hera. 

Two personifications of ancient date and widespread renown 
were Aya#bs Acupov and 'AyaOrj Tvy^, the male and female 
representatives of good luck in life. An invocation of them 
sometimes stands at the head of Greek civic decrees ; and there 
were ancient shrines dedicated to them and images of them in 
many Greek cities. It is sometimes supposed that they were 
of Roman origin, and only adopted in later Greece ; but this 
is a mistake. It was, however, a custom of later Greece, taking 
its rise probably in Hellenistic times, to establish in cities a 
cultus of the T^vxV 0I> that particular place, a sort of impersona- 
tion of its destiny. Such creations received much worship in late 
times ; and indeed, as belief in the gods declined, the belief in 
Fortune steadily grew ; so that many soldiers in the armies of 
the time seem to have acknowledged no other deity. 

Below the hierarchy of gods and daemons comes the race of 
demi-gods or heroes. Of the origin of the cultus of the dead 
in prehistoric days I have already spoken ; it remains only to 
make a rapid survey of the heroic population of Greece in 
historical times. 

Hesiod, in the Works and Days, 1 intercalates the race of 

1 L. 157. 


heroes between the race of bronze and that of iron which is 
still existing. These were, he says, the noble and warlike race 
who fought around seven-gated Thebes, and under the walls of 
Troy ; and after their death Zeus removed them to the islands 
of the blessed, where, under the rule of Cronus, they dwell in 
peace and plenty. A number of the heroes venerated in the 
cities of Greece were of this class. Achilles was for some 
strange reason worshipped on the shores of the Euxine, and 
even as ruler of the waves of that inhospitable sea. Ajax was 
greatly honoured in iEgina, the home of ^Eacus, and gave his 
name to one of the Athenian tribes. At the time of the 
Persian war his aid was formally besought by the Athenians ; 
and after that war was over we find Themistocles l piously 
ascribing the victory to the aid of gods and heroes. Menelaus 
and Helen received constant honours at Sparta. The Locrian 
Ajax O'ileus occurs as the regular type on the Locrian coins, 
and Protesilaiis sometimes makes his appearance on those of 
the Phthiotic Thebes. Every student of Greek history knows 
how the bones of Orestes were removed to Sparta, and those of 
Theseus to Athens, to be venerated in those citiss and to confer 
on them lasting benefit ; and incidents of this character are 
to be found in the annals of most of the little republics of 

But the name and honours of a hero were by no means con- 
fined to Homeric and epic worthies. There were traditionary 
heroes of a quite local character, like Marathon and Echetlus, 
who fought on the side of the Greeks at Marathon. When any 
person had by his death hallowed or made memorable a spot, 
he retained for ever a certain power or influence there. For 
such reason Xeoptolemus was treated as a hero at Delphi ; thus, 
too, the Spartan defeat at Leuctra was considered generally as 
partly due to the nearness of that place to the tombs of the 
daughters of Scedasus, whom the Spartans had in former days 
wronged and murdered. But one class of heroes obtained quite 
a special cultus : it comprises the founders of cities who had 
led the colonists to them and performed on the spot those 
sacred rites without which no Greek city came into being. 
Such a leader was, if possible, buried under the market-place, 
that his presence might still dwell among the citizens : in any 
case, a shrine was erected in his honour, and, in times of danger 
and distress, his aid was solemnly invoked by the people. 
And this was done not only in case of founders whose distance 

1 Herod, viii. 109. 


in past times might be supposed to lend them something of 
sacred character, such as Phalanthus at Tarentum, or Andro- 
clus at Ephesus, but even in case of comparatively late founders. 
Thus Miltiades was revered as founder, /cTio-njs, by the Greek 
colonists of Chersonesus, and Brasidas by those of Amphipolis. 
The cities of Sicily with one consent raised to the rank of hero 
and second founder Timoleon, after he had freed them from 
the Carthaginian yoke. 

Later the literary Ptolemies of Egypt erected a heroon 
to Homer, and so with better historical claim did the citizens 
of Smyrna. Orpheus became a hero in Lesbos, where his head 
was preserved, and Bias in his native city Priene. We even 
hear that Socrates, who was condemned to death for impiety, 
received a temple after death, and there were altars of his 
rival Anaxagoras ; but phenomena like these belong to the 
decline. In better times the raising of one dead man to heroic 
rank was a serious business. It has been frequently and not 
inaptly compared to canonisation in the Church of Rome. As 
it is the privilege of the Pope to decide on the canonisation of 
saint or martyr, so it was commonly the authority which among 
the Greeks most nearly corresponded to the Pope, the Oracle 
of Delphi, which pronounced judgment on the merits of those 
proposed for heroic honours. But the Delphic oracle was far 
more lavish in its grants of honour, and not only usually passed 
those proposed, but very commonly recommended on its own 
account the establishment of some heroic cultus as a remedy for 
a disease which ravaged a city or a calamity impending over it. 
But private individuals often took it upon themselves, in virtue 
of a dream or portent, which strong wishing might easily pro- 
duce, to establish a heroon in honour of a deceased friend ; 
and such heroon, if well endowed with worldly goods, might 
last for ages, and easily by chance, or through a pious fraud, 
become celebrated. 

Students of mythology are familiar with the process by which 
deities once powerful were reduced to the rank of daemon or 
demi-god and attached in a subordinate position to one of the 
great Olympic deities. Nereus thus becomes subordinate to 
Poseidon, and Adonis sinks from a great god into the human 
lover of Aphrodite ; but the reverse process is at least equally 
common. Among the Greeks not only men were constantly 
being elevated to the rank of heroes, but also a few of the 
more prominent heroes passed into the ranks of the gods. 

Of the last mentioned progress a few instances will suffice. 
Herakles was practically regarded by the later Greeks as a god, 


although the time at which he was supposed to have lived was 
well marked in Greek heroic annals ; and several races of 
Peloponnesian kings and nobles claimed to be descended from 
him in the ordinary human way. Asklepius was usually 
thought of as one who had lived in the world, and his sons 
Podaleirius and Machaon led to Troy the men of Tricca in 
Thessaly, yet in Hellenistic times few deities enjoyed greater 
reputation, and he is termed in inscriptions /xeyas, cram)/), and 
even Zevs. Amphiaraus was said to have accompanied the first 
expedition against Thebes, but his oracles were held in very 
high estimation in Hellas, yielding scarcely to those of Apollo 
himself, and he himself was reckoned as a deity. Mythical 
founders of cities were in many instances worshipped in those 
cities, not as heroes but as gods— Autolycus, for example, at 
Sinope, and Tlepolemus at Tiryns. 

Even men in the later days of Greece were sometimes accorded 
divine honours. This was a custom evidently of Oriental origin. 
From early times the great kings of Assyria and Egypt were 
reckoned as gods by the people who had to render them a slavish 
obedience, and sometimes they seemed to the down-trodden 
multitudes the only gods able to help and to punish. Welcker 1 
remarks that Lysander was the earliest of the Greeks to be 
thus honoured ; the Samians, or at least the oligarchical party 
among them, singing a hymn in his praise, that is, invoking him 
as the healing god to deliver them from the bondage of Athens, 
and changing the name of their greatest festival from Hersea 
to Lysandria, in his honour. Philip of Macedon allowed the 
people of Amphipolis to sacrifice to him as a deity, and at the 
wedding of his daughter Cleopatra, figured with the twelve 
great gods as one of them. That Alexander went further still 
need surprise us little, for after his conquests he assumed the 
airs of an Oriental monarch, and divinity was but one of these. 
After his death Alexandria became the seat of a great cultus of 
him as a deity, and henceforth the assumption of divinity is 
made by all his marshals who attain any position of power or 
renown. The Ptolemies in Egypt have regular temples with 
their colleges of priests attached to the service of the reigning 
monarch, and the Seleucidae in Syria assume as their regal 
name some title, doubtless selected by the priests, from among 
those commonly conferred on deities, such as cnor-qp or cttic/xxj/tJs. 
Demetrius at Athens received the title of debs o-amj/>, and was 
lodged in the Parthenon as friend and guest of Athena ; even 

1 Gr. Gotterl. Hi. 300. 


to his wives, as impersonations of Aphrodite, temples were 
erected in various part of Greece. The deification of the 
Roman Emperors, which the Romans had the decency to post- 
pone to their death, but which the Greeks sometimes carried 
through while they lived, was but a continuation of the customs 
into which these latter had fallen in the case of their own kings. 
We can scarcely be surprised to learn that in days when divinity 
was conferred on those who could exercise high functions of 
command, the lower grade of heroism was bestowed at death 
on almost any person whose surviving friends desired it and 
could pay for it. 




It is well known to every one that in Homer, though Olympus 
is spoken of as the home of all the gods, yet they each have 
some favourite spot where they dwell by {Difference, as Hera at 
Argos and Poseidon at JEgse. This local tie does not prevent 
them from hastening to any spot on the earth where their 
presence may seem desirable, but it furnishes them with a 
home to which to return. And although prayer is frequently 
addressed to various of the Olympians by heroes on the 
battle-field or in their wanderings, it would yet seem that all 
save three or four were of more ready access if the suppliant 
were physically near one of his seats. So Achilles, when he 
wishes to invoke the aid of his mother, goes down to the shore 
of the sea. 1 Pelops in Pindar, 2 when he prays to Poseidon, 
does the same ; and sometimes in Homer a prayer is not 
heard because the deity to whom it is addressed is absent on 
other affairs ; and always a deity was present in his own 
shrines as nowhere else. 

In the dawn of Greek history we already find everywhere 
plots of land set apart for and consecrated to certain deities. 
The cause in each case can scarcely at this distance of time 
be recovered ; at most it can only be matter of hypothesis and 
conjecture. In all likelihood the Greeks in many or most 
cases merely recognised and adopted an appropriation made by 
earlier inhabitants of the countries in which they came to 
dwell. It certainly was thus with the enclosure dedicated to 
the Ephesian Artemis, whose worship was locally established 

1 II. i. 350. • 2 Pindar, 01. i. 72. 


1 64 CULTUS 

long before the Athenians under Androclus came to settle on 
Mounts Prion and Coressus. It was so at Delphi, where an 
oracle of Ge was established time out of mind, long before the 
arrival of the Hellenic Apollo. In fact, it is a general rule with 
archaeologists, when they find an ancient religious precinct 
lying outside the walls of a Greek city in any district but the 
oldest seats of the Hellenes, to suppose that the foundation 
is not Greek but pre-Greek, the work of barbarous and 
forgotten races. And in these cases we shall only be misled 
if we try, from our knowledge of the Greek mind and Greek 
religion, to find reasons for the choice of particular localities. 

Nevertheless we are able to attain, by a process of induction, 
to some of the causes which led in Greece to the setting apart 
of localities for religious purposes. These causes are divided by 
Hermann 1 into three classes — physical, ethical, and historical, 
and we cannot do better than follow closely in his steps. 

(1) Physical. Certain kinds of localities seemed to the Greeks 
especially full of the presence of supernatural powers. Groves 
were frequently dedicated to divinities in Greece as in most 
countries from the Britain of the Druids to Babylon. In a 
grove of myrtles one might expect to light on a temple of 
Aphrodite, in one of olives on a temple of Athena, while 
laurel-groves belonged especially to Zeus and Apollo. If in a 
grove or meadow a tree of specially beautiful appearance grew, 
it would be in early times worshipped itself as a fetish ; in 
later times it would be consecrated to some deity, as was the 
celebrated ilex sacred to Zeus which grew at Gortys, and the 
oak of Dodona. The tops of hill and mountain were usually 
hallowed. Pausanias records abundant instances. Commonly 
they were set apart for Zeus under the titles verios, Karai/Sdrr)? 
and the like ; but Hera was worshipped on Mount Euboea, 
Aphrodite on the lofty Acrocorinthus, Hermes on Mount 
Cyllene, and so forth. This connection of mountains with the 
gods takes the place of the worship of the mountain itself, 
which we find in non-Greek lands — such worship as that of 
Mount Argseus in Cappadocia. Caves and grottoes were among 
the earliest temples ; but perhaps the most usual of all seats 
of early worship were rivers and springs. In a climate like 
that of Greece rivers are not only useful but necessary to the 
fertility of a district, and the springs which come rushing forth 
from chasms in the rocky soil were an endless source of joy 
and prosperity. The Greeks surrounded them with masonry, 

1 Gottesdienstliche Alterthiimer, Ed. Stark, p. 62. 


propitiated them with offerings, and sought to draw from them 
auguries as to future events. On many a green tree and 
beside many a fountain would be found images, fluttering 
fillets, and simple rustic gifts, remains of a very primitive 
nature worship, such as remains to this day usual in Japan, 
and not unheard of even in our country, where sacred trees and 
wishing wells are not entirely things of the past. Only as 
religion grew more articulate and anthropomorphic in Greece 
the sacred spot was usually connected with Olympic deities, 
and the mere fetishism which had first made it sacred passed 
into the background. Thus on the sea-shore rose shrines to 
Poseidon rather than to sea-daemon and nymph, and the 
typical river Acheloiis was worshipped on the banks of lesser 

(2) Next to the physical circumstances which lent sanctity to 
a spot Hermann places the ethical. Human associations from 
earliest time mark out for purposes of religion certain parts of 
abode or city. The most typical is the hearth, whether that 
of a single family or that of the prytaneium, the place of 
union of sept or clan. A hearth of some sort was usually to be 
found in Greece at the site of most great temples. At that of 
Poseidon by Mycale was the assembling-place of the Ionians ; 
the shrines of Demeter Panachsea and Zeus Homagyrius were 
places of union of the Achaeans ; while the prytaneium of 
Olympia was as it were the common hearth of all Hellas. All 
old Greek cities having their nucleus or starting-point in an 
acropolis hill, that hill was the cradle and hearth of the race, 
and some part of it was set aside for the divinities who pro- 
tected the unity of the state and watched over its prosperity, 
the ttoXlovxol $€ol. As the inhabitants, with the advent of 
more settled times, spread down from the acropolis hill to the 
plain below, a larger share of the hill was left to the deities, 
until sometimes as at Athens it became altogether a consecrated 
place, and all secular buildings were removed to the agora in 
the plain. And not only did the deities thus acquire the acr-ru, 
acropolis, but pleasant sites were chosen for such of them as 
came into favour in the irdAis below. Socrates is represented 
by Xenophon 1 as declaring such spots to be most fitted for 
dedication to the gods as could be well seen by all, and yet 
were out of the way of easy approach, so as not to be crowded. 
Aristotle speaks to much the same effect. 

(3) Next to the centres of human circles of intercourse the most 

1 Manor, iii. 8. 10. 

I 66 . CULTUS 

suitable spots for sacred enclosures were held to be the circum- 
ferences. The bounds which separated state and state were 
often the seats of temples : we may instance the temple of 
Artemis on Taygetus on the bounds of the territories of Spar- 
tans and Messenians, and the Isthmian sanctuary of Poseidon 
between Corinth and Megara. In this way the deities at once 
divided states and formed a bond between them. On the 
neutral ground which they occupied, enemies could meet in 
peace and discuss terms of friendship and alliance, markets 
could be held for exchange of goods, and documents could be 
laid up binding on both states. Along the high-roads of Greece 
were frequent chapels ; and in places where three ways met in 
particular were very usually shrines of the triple Hecate. An 
arrangement introduced for religious motives, and probably con- 
tinued for those of convenience, directed that travellers who had 
food to spare should lay it on the altars of Hecate for travellers 
less amply provided to take and enjoy as the gift of the goddess. 
The figures of Hermes, which divided lands and marked the 
course of roads, made a little space round them sacred, and their 
cultus was never entirely absorbed by those of Hermes and Apollo 
in the cities : the local feeling always survived. Market-places 
were always put under the protection of deol dyopatoi, Zeus, 
Athena, or Hermes, who guarded the fidelity of contracts there 
made, and punished sharp dealing or breach of faith ; and in 
gymnasia a part was set aside for the occupation of the agonis- 
tic gods Hermes and Herakles, of whom one bestowed skill and 
address, the other force and courage. 

Whenever a spot was set apart as sacred to a deity, a legend 
would arise as if out of the ground to justify such consecra- 
tion. But in some cases the legend had historical justification. 
This was most commonly the case when an event of good or 
evil omen marked out the place where it happened from ordi- 
nary ground. Thus a spot struck by lightning remained to all 
time a sacred enclosure. On the spot in Argos where the 
Epirote king Pyrrhus fell, 1 the Argives erected a temple to 
Demeter, and buried the hero therein. In fact, the graves of 
heroes were everywhere held sacred. No doubt if we could 
trace back into pre-historic times the rise of places afterwards 
held sacred in Greece, we should in many cases find that the 
first impulse to consecration of the spot came from one of those 
encounters with supernatural powers which are so frequent an 
experience of the primitive man. He finds, or thinks he finds 

1 Paus. i. 13, 8. 


.si Hue deity, perhaps embodied in the form of animal or snake 
in possession of a spot which he has rashly invaded, and the 
supernatural tenant has to be thenceforward propitiated by con- 
tinual rites. And as prescription rules in religious matters with 
unyielding stubbornness, when a deity or daemon had in any 
way made good a claim to a particular spot, he would commonly 
retain it. In later times, often land was made over to some 
deity in consequence of a dream, an omen, or an oracular 
response, 1 or by bequest of some person dying with or without 
heirs. 2 Sometimes the land of a conquered foe was made over 
to some deity as a sacred temenos ; and a dozen other causes 
might cause the passage of land from human to divine posses- 
sion; and as land once made over thus could never be re- 
claimed, the gods gradually acquired, in the course of Greek 
history, a larger and larger share of the country. 

In the case of the larger sacred places, more especially such 
as were -the seats of agonistic festivals, the re/zevos or sacred 
enclosure was of considerable extent, and contained many 
buildings adapted for various purposes. It was rigidly marked 
off from the profane buildings round by a wail, or at least by 
stones such as are still occasionally discovered, bearing the 
inscription "Opos Aios,"0/)os 'A#?}vi7s, and so forth. 3 The sacred 
precincts of many deities were asylums, that is they were safe 
refuges for those who had committed crimes, for slaves who 
had been ill-treated or dreaded ill-treatment, for debtors who 
could not pay their debts, and all persons who stood in fear of 
enemies or justice. In rude early days, when manners were 
fierce and justice rudimentary, such an institution must have 
been productive of much good, putting an end to interminable 
blood-feuds, and affording the persecuted a means of escape 
from the tyrant. But in later days the privileges of asylum 
were serious hindrances to the execution of law. Then most 
of the precincts lost the right of asylum • and even when a 
fugitive from revenge or from justice fled to the very altars of 
the gods, which in all times retained their inviolability, he was 
liable to be starved into surrender, or even carried off by force, 
so long as no blood was shed. Of all the temples of Greece 
that of Athena Alea at Tegea possessed the most inviolable 
right of asylum. Leotychides and Pausanias the Spartan kings 
both took refuge there when afraid of punishment by their 

1 Dittenberger, Sylloge, Nos. 360, 368. 

2 C. I. G. 2448. The so-called will of Eprcteta. 

3 Dittenberger, Sylloge, Nos. 377, 378. 

1 68 CULTUS 

compatriots, and lived in peace. Pausanias the traveller 1 says 
that the Spartans did not even ask for their surrender. Hither 
too fled Chrysis, the priestess of the Argive Hera, after she had 
accidentally set fire to the Herseuni. Sometimes grave evils 
resulted from the extension of the right of asylum. At Ephesus 
for instance the limit of the privilege had been fixed by Mithri- 
dates 2 at a bow-shot from the temple of Artemis in every 
direction. Mark Antony doubled the area of the inviolable 
space, but in so doing he unfortunately included a part of the 
city, which at once became a sort of Alsatia, a refuge of robbers 
and murderers, without law or security for property, and 
Augustus was obliged to restore the former limits. 

Sometimes the sacred enclosure was absolutely forbidden to 
the foot of man. A wood sacred to Dionysus existed at 
Megalopolis, 3 which was surrounded by a OptyKos or barrier, 
and not accessible to any one. More frequently it was only to 
be entered on rare occasions and by privileged persons, like the 
enclosure at Olympia which contained the tomb of Hippodamia, 
which women only were allowed to enter once a year. 4 Very 
frequently a temenos was accessible only to one sex, and nearly 
always some classes were excluded. Thus from the temple of 
Leucothea at Chaeroneia all of iEtolian race were excluded. 
No stranger was admitted to the temple of Hera at Amorgos. 5 
No Dorian was admitted to the temple of Athena Polias at 
Athens ; generally indeed it was supposed that the sight of one 
of a rival or hostile tribe was displeasing to the deities of a 
city. In the tribal religion of the Greeks it was reckoned a 
great privilege to accord to an alien to give him the right of 
attending public sacrifices. 

At the very entrance of all sacred precincts was a vase of 
water for the purification of those who approached. These 
were called Trepippavr-qpia. Also there were commonly inscrip- 
tions stating who first dedicated the spot, 6 and on what condi- 
tions it might be entered, or enjoining cleanliness and reverence 
on all votaries. 7 The enclosing wall was usually only inter- 
mittent at one place, and at that spot propylaea were erected. 
These in outward form somewhat resembled a temple, but 
their interior arrangement was different, the central point in 
them being a strong door calculated to keep out intruders and 
even a hostile force, while within and without the door were 

1 iii. 5, 6. 2 Strabo, xiv. p. 641. 3 Paus. viii. 31, 5. 

4 Paus. vi. 20, 7. 5 Dittenberger, Sylloge, No. 358. 

6 Cf. ibid. No. 356. 7 Ibid. Nos. 357, 359, 361. 


chambers for waiting in, and sometimes stose at the sides as 
in the noble Propylsea of Pericles. 

Inside the peribolus wall were a variety of buildings. The 
most important and essential spot of the whole was that 
occupied by the altar. Hermann with justice observes that 
the altar was of more moment in a religious point of view than 
either temple or image, and commonly it was far older than 
either. Sacred places need contain no shrine and very com- 
monly contained no figure of a deity, but must contain an altar 
of some sort, or the deity remained entirely inaccessible to his 
votaries. Pausanias mentions an altar of Zeus Lycaeus which 
was a mere mound of earth on the summit of the Lycaean 
mountain. Originally the altar was a simple structure. In 
Apollonius Rhodius the Argonauts are represented as heaping 
up, wherever they land, stones for a temporary altar. In 
Theocritus 1 we read of altars formed of oak, ivy, and asphodel. 
Some of the most renowned altars in Greece, the great one at 
Olympia for instance, were formed of the ashes of sacrifices 
which were not removed, but allowed to accumulate. At 
Didyma near Miletus was an altar formed by Herakles of the 
blood of victims ; and we read of others made of their horns. 
But after a time the artistic taste of the Greeks added masonry 
and ornament to these primitive structures. Horns were 
placed at the corners, whether to be grasped by those who took 
oaths, or to support flowers and fillets. Altars were fenced off 
from the crowd by dpiyKoi or barriers. Sometimes they became 
of colossal size, like the Olympian altar, which was 125 feet in 
circumference and 22 in height, and that magnificent Perga- 
mene altar, of which the remains decorated with colossal friezes 
now adorn the museums of Berlin. Of another and peculiar 
character was the gigantic wooden altar or rather pyre piled up 
every year at Patrae in honour of Artemis Laphria. 2 They 
made a huge enclosure of dry wood, and drove within it all 
manner of game and living creatures ; then set fire to the 
whole and made a huge burnt-offering to the deity. Commonly 
altars were consecrated to one, or at most two or three deities, 
and could not be used for sacrifice to others ; but there were 
exceptions : the altars in the Prytaneia, for instance, were used 
for sacrifice to all national deities. At Oropus 3 was an altar 
divided into four parts, and each of those parts was devoted 
to a group of deities. 

When temples began to arise throughout Greece, they com- 

1 xxvi. 5. - Pans, vii. 18, II, 3 Paus. i. 34, 2. 


monly included small altars whereon incense could be burned, 
and small bloodless sacrifices laid at the very feet of the deity. 
But the larger altars, whereon sheep and oxen were offered, 
remained outside, so placed in reference to the temple that the 
votary sacrificing at the altar could see the image in its cella. 
The reason for this is obvious enough : the slaughter of animals 
would have polluted the temples and filled them with blood 
and filth, while the thick smoke would soon have spoiled the 
beauty of the divine images ; and on the other hand it was 
essential to the efficacy of an altar that the smoke from it 
should rise freely to heaven into the presence of the gods. 
Thus in the rare cases in which a great altar was included in 
the temple-walls, an open space above it was left in the roof, 
through which the smoke might rise. 

It was usual to place in the -re/zen? of Greek divinities tombs 
of those men who had founded them. The Pelopium, the sup- 
posed grave of Pelops, stood by the temple of Zeus at Olympia, 
the tomb of Hyacinthus by the Apollo at Amy else. Neoptolemus, 
son of Achilles, was said to be buried in the temple at Delphi ; 
Clearchus the founder of Miletus in the Didymseum near that 
city. An instance from later times was the already-mentioned 
tomb of Pyrrhus of Epirus in a temple of Demeter at Argos. 
The peribolus also included dwellings alike for the suppliants 
who fled thither and for the officers of the temple. Homer 1 
speaks of Maron, priest of Apollo, as living in the shady grove 
of Phoebus. The Arrephoric maidens at Athens lived during 
their term of office close to the temple of Athena Polias. The 
sacred slaves commonly slept in cells about the temples ; and in 
some sorts of temples there must have been quite a thronging 
population, as for instance in the shrines of Aphrodite, in 
which Oriental customs of prostitution were maintained, and 
in those of Asklepius, which were crowded with sick and their 
physicians. In some re/xev-^ even feasts were given, for example 
in the ko-Tiaropia of the sacred island of Delos, where feasted 
the Ionians with wives and children. So Strabo 2 says of 
Tenos that the city was small, but without it was a precinct 
of Poseidon, within which were large eo-Ttaropia, which would 
accommodate not only the people of the city but all the neigh- 
bours who might come to the feast of Poseidon. In one case, 
that of Delphi, there was even a theatre close to the sacred 
enclosure, that theatre wherein the musical contests of the 
Pythia were held. 

1 Od. ix. 200. 2 x. p. 487. 



1 7 2 CULTUS 

In recent years the entire area of the great altis of Zeus at 
Olympia has been laid bare by the energy of German explorers, 
and the student can examine it foot by foot. It contained not 
only the great temples of Zeus, Hera, and the Mother of the 
Gods, but the tomb of Pelops, the circular building raised by 
Philip of Macedon in honour of his own family, the Exedra of 
Herodes Atticus, and the colossal altar of Zeus, together with 
a vast crowd of donaria and monuments of every kind. On 
one side it was bounded by a long row of treasuries, each con- 
taining the offerings of some wealthy state ; on another by a 
long colonnade, in which probably many of the visitors to the 
great festival slept during the hot summer nights. The stadium 
and the hippodrome were outside in secular ground, together 
with the palaestra where the competitors practised. The visitor 
to Olympia is transported back into ancient times and ways of 
life, almost as completely as the visitor to Pompeii. 

Thus were the gods of Greece localised and limited. And 
whether it were a tribal or national deity who acquired a fixed 
dwelling-place, or whether it were some divinity rising, like 
Cora in the myth, out of the ground, who had nothing to do 
with Olympus, but was essentially provincial, it came to much 
the same thing. A precinct was enclosed, an altar set up, 
perhaps later a temple, a priest was set apart, and the cult 
became an outward and visible fact, which had thenceforth 
profound influence upon the history of the district. Such a 
shrine had a story of growth and decline, just as much as a 
city had, although as a rule the story found no historian to 
write it down, and we have to recover scattered fragments of 
it from the inscriptions found upon the site, and the dedications 
brought to light after long ages. 

The erection of temples for the gods was a result of constantly 
growing anthropomorphism in the conception of them held by 
the people. In the old days when the Greeks or their Pelasgic 
predecessors worshipped the powers of nature, or perhaps some 
totem of the animal world, or attached supernatural powers to 
some mere fetish, a tree or a spring, a rock or a stone, they 
adored in the open air. But when images, however rude, were 
formed, and supposed to embody the divine nature more com- 
pletely than unworked products of nature, it became necessary 
to erect houses where these images might be placed in security, 
and where they might dwell as the chiefs dwelt in their own 
palaces. Thus the cultus-image, or idol as we should term it, 
was the centre of the temple, and determined its parts and their 
relations one to the other. And of course when the custom of 


erecting houses for deities was fairly established, it was adopted 
even in those cases in which the deity was represented not by 
an image but by a mere symbol. In the great temple at Delphi, 
for instance, there was no great cultus-image of Apollo. 

The earliest Greek chapels were either natural caves or the 
hollows of decayed trees. Greece abounds in caves, and few 
of these, even down to the latest pagan times, were without 
statues of deities. In historical Greece they were commonly 
sacred to the Nymphs, and contained statues of them, or reliefs 
representing them in company with Pan or Hermes, or the 
river-god Achelous. This was especially the case in Attic 
territory, and several reliefs such as these are now in the 
Athenian museums. But some caves were dedicated to other 
divine beings. There was in Crete a sacred cave where Rhea 
was said to have given birth to Zeus, and where the child was 
fed with honey by bees. There was the cave sacred to Apollo 
at Apollonia, where the flocks of the deity were shut up at 
night. There was the celebrated cave of Trophonius, and 
that near Eleusis, into which Pluto disappeared, bearing the 
captive Persephone : indeed very deep and gloomy caves were 
usually connected rather with the deities of the nether world 
than with the Xymphs. In a cave at Bura in Achaia was a 
shrine and oracle of Herakles -, 1 other caves were sacred to Cybele, 
Apollo, Aphrodite, and other deities. Trees were also, as 
Botticher has abundantly shown in his Baumcultus, not only 
themselves worshipped as fetishes, but also used as receptacles 
for rude images in early times. An instance may be taken 
from Pausanias, who saw near Orchomenus a chapel of Artemis 
with her statue in wood, placed in the midst of a large cedar, 
and so called Cedreatis. 2 

It may easily be imagined that the needs of Greek cultus 
soon outgrew these primitive shrines. The Homeric heroes, 
having stately palaces of their own, could not let the gods 
remain without a dwelling. And in fact, in the Homeric 
poems are numerous passages which prove that in the time when 
they were written temples were not rare in Greece. We hear 
of the temple of Poseidon at iEgae ; of the AouVos ovSbs of 
Apollo at rocky Pytho, full of rich offerings. Nausithoiis is 
said in the Odyssey f when he built the city of the Phaeacians, 
to have erected in it temples to the gods. In an Assyrian 
monument of the latter part of the eighth century, a date not 
much later than that usually given to Homer, in the reliefs 

1 Paus. vii. 25, 10. " Paus. viii. 13, 2. 3 vi. 10. 


found by Botta in the palace of King Sargon, 1 there is figured, 
standing between two fortresses, a building which has all the 
appearance of a Doric temple, with a pillared front surmounted 
by a pediment, and with shields hung against the outer walls. 
It is in a city hostile to the Assyrians, who are scaling its roof. 
The inscription shows that the locality is on the borders of 
Armenia. It seems likely, then, that in its essential features 
the Greek temple was copied from structures of the Asiatic 

But there still exist in Greece itself temples of a very 
primitive character. One such was found by Mr. Hawkins 
near the site of Carystus in Euboea, an oblong building with 
rude walls and a roof formed of stone slabs arranged in tiers 
so that each row projected beyond that beneath it until they 
nearly met in the middle. Such a mode of construction may 
indicate very great antiquity. But the column was at a very 
early date introduced into Greek architecture, and soon pro- 
duced great improvements in it. Indeed, the arrangement of 
pillars gives at once the key to a Greek building. The most 
important part of a Greek temple was that which contained 
the statue or symbol of the deity, the vabs proper or cella. 
This was the casket which contained the jewel, and however 
it might be architecturally adorned or architecturally concealed, 
it remained the one essential thing. This cella was oblong in 
form, and in the larger temples was sometimes in part open to 
the sky. If the two sides of the cella be continued forwards, 
and between the projecting buttresses a couple of pillars be 
inserted, we shall have what Yitruvius calls a templum in 
antis. If the sides be continued but a short distance, and a 
row of pillars placed free in front, the temple will be prostyle ; 
if the sides be also continued backwards and a second row of 
free pillars placed behind, the temple will be amphiprostyle, 
like the temple of Nike Apteros at Athens. This arrangement 
gives us three chambers, the vabs itself with a irpovaos and 
67tl(t968o[ios. And now architecturally the temple must be 
considered as complete and incapable of further development : 
all that can be done is to surround it with columns, in which 
case it will become a vabs 7T€/ho-ti;Aos, or TrepiTrrepos. The 
temple of Zeus at Olympia, of which the plan is here given, 
is in antis and peripteral. 

The orientation of a Greek temple was commonly to the 
west or the east, though exceptions occur, as in the case of the 

1 Botta, Dicouvertes, pi. 141. 



temple at Phigaleia. Their form was fixed with considerable 
rigidity. In the size, the number of pillars, perhaps the method 
of lighting, as well as in the style of architecture there was 
variety ; but the general shape and arrangement was unvaried. 
The apparent exceptions, such as the Erechtheium at Athens, 
owe their abnormal form to the fact that they are not single 
temples, but groups of separate shrines under a single roof, 
each preserving in essentials the normal form. A construction of 
so simple plan evidently did not admit much variety or much 
improvement with time : a modern taste would become tired 
of the incessant repetition of the same forms and the same lines, 
just as it would weary to find the same scenes represented 

• • • 




Fig. 1^.— Ground-Plan of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia. 

in the sculptures of the "walls in endless repetition — the labours 
of Herakles, the battles of the Centaurs and Lapiths, or of the 
Greeks and Amazons. But Greek taste affected slight varieties 
in essentially similar compositions. 

The dimensions of the largest of Greek temples, the Arte- 
misium at Ephesus, were, according to Mr. Wood, 342 feet in 
lejagth by 163 in width, the measurements being taken on the 
outer colonnade in both dimensions. The Parthenon was not 
much more than a fourth of this size, and the majority of Greek 
temples were of small size, never having been intended to admit 
a great concourse of people. An exception was the hall at 
Eleusis, intended for the use of the Mystae, which was made of 


an unusual square shape, and measured some 220 feet by 180, 
so as to hold a large crowd of people. 1 On the front of the 
temples was often an inscription recording by whom it was set 
up, and on what occasion, and to what deity dedicated. 2 In 
approaching the building the votary first encountered the flight 
of steps leading up to the door, for temples were in all cases 
raised upon steps to lift them above the common earth. These 
steps ran all round the building : the number was uneven in 
order that the right foot of the suppliant might touch both the 
first and the last step. In front of the great doors were lustral 
vases for purification. Immediately within them was the 
7r/3ovaos. Alike the irpovaos and the intercolumniation without 
were commonly full of statues and dedicated objects. At the 
Argive Herseum, 3 for instance, there were outside the doors 
statues of the priestesses of Hera, as well as of Orestes and other 
heroes ; inside, archaic statues of the Graces and the couch of 
Hera and the shield of Euphorbus, dedicated by Menelaus. It 
has been doubted by what title statues of one deity could be 
placed, as was so often the case in Greece, in the temple of another. 
The analogy proposed by Maury of the images of saints in a 
Catholic church is misleading ; and it does not appear that these 
subsidiary statues received worship, they were often merely 
placed in sacred buildings as beautiful works of art fit for the 
acceptance of the gods. But it seems not unnatural to place in 
the chief temple of a city and under the protection of its guardian 
deity statues of other beings whom the city held in honour. 

The central part of the temples was occupied by the va6<s or 
cella. In large temples this contained three divisions or aisles, 
the side aisles being, as in our churches, separated from the 
middle one by rows of columns. In the central place of honour 
stood usually the chief statue of the temple deity. In early 
times this was commonly a rude and simple symbol, a conical 
stone, a meteorite, or a rudely fashioned log, like that o-avts, 
which was said in very early days to have represented the 
majesty of the Hera of Samos. To these symbols succeeded 
rude images, often ending below in a mere block, such as the 
Artemis of Ephesus and the Apollo of Amyclse. 4 These were 
in all after time held sacred in the highest degree ; they were 
clad in rich robes and treated almost like living creatures, 
carried annually to the bath, and even chained by the legs to 

1 Book iii. chap. ix. 2 Dittenberger, Sylloge, No. 356. 

3 Paus. ii. 17, 3. 

4 The whole of this process can be well traced on coins. See my Types 
of Greek Coins, pi. xv. pp. 77-85. 


prevent their running away. But with time, in the course of 
the fifth and fourth centuries, they yielded their conspicuous 
position to the masterpieces of Pheidias and Praxiteles, retiring 
into adyta, but still drawing after them the heart and belief 
of the people. It was not the Parthenos of Pheidias which 
received the annual peplos from the Athenian people, but the 
old wooden statue of Athena Polias. It was not the Eros 
of Praxiteles which was really worshipped at Thespiae, but a 
conical stone, which had represented the god time out of mind. 
In some cases in Greece the statues of a group of deities 
occupied the centre of the paos, as in that remarkable temple 
of the Great Goddesses at Megalopolis, 1 where, beside statues of 
Demeter and Cora, stood lesser images of Artemis and Athena, 
and a little Ilerakles a cubit high, or, as in the temple of Hera 
at Mantineia, 2 where, beside the statue of Hera, stood figures 
of Hebe and of Athena. And sometimes there was no image 
at all, as in the temple of Peitho at Sicyon, 3 or as in the great 
Delphic temple itself, in which case the absence of an image 
would usually be explained by a sacred myth. 

In front of the chief statue would usually lie a table whereon 
offerings might be set. Sometimes these were of gold or 
silver, like the gold table seized by Dionysius in the temple 
of Asklepius at Syracuse ; 4 often they were adorned with 
elaborate reliefs : one at Megalopolis in the temple of the 
Great Goddesses with figures of Horse and Nymphs, Apollo 
and Pan. Daily gifts were laid on these tables, mostly of a 
simple kind : flowers and fruit, bloodless and pure offerings, 
which lay for a time in the presence of the god, and then were 
carried away by the priests for their own tables. On the table 
of the Dioscuri at Gyrene, silphium was continually laid. 
The upsetting or destroying of this table was looked on as a 
bitter offence to the deity ; thus we hear that Apollo upset and 
destroyed the table of the monstrous Python, and for that rash 
act, in spite of his divine nature, had to undergo purification. 

How the light was admitted into the cella of a Greek temple 
is uncertain. It must have come from above, and the term 
hypaethral, applied by Vitruvius to larger temples, seems to in- 
dicate that they were open in the middle to heaven ; but Mr. 
F< rgusson, in an ingenious treatise, maintained that great temples 
were lighted through a clerestory, wherein a kind of lattice-work 
was contrived for the more partial admission of daylight. 

1 Tuns. viii. 31, i. 2 Pans. viii. 9, 3. 

3 Paus. ii. 7, 7. * Athen. xv. p. 693c. 



Every part of the vaos was adorned with works of painting 
and sculpture. In the temple of Zeus at Olympia 1 there was 
a splendid curtain (7ra/oa7T€Taoyxa) of Assyrian work, richly 
embroidered, the gift of Antiochus IV., which is said to have 
come from the great temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem. The 
barriers which in the same temple fenced off from public 
intrusion the space under the statue of Zeus were adorned with 
an elaborate series of paintings by Panamus, containing mytho- 
graphic subjects. The Theseium at Athens contained paintings 
of all the exploits of Theseus. The very statues of the deities 
themselves were used as a background for works in relief. Even 
the buckler and the sandals of the Athena of Pheidias were 
covered with reliefs ; so was the throne of Zeus at Olympia, 
and that built by Bathycles of Magnesia round the archaic 
figure of Apollo at Amyclae. 

Pausanias 2 gives us an account of a perpetually burning 
lamp in the temple of Athena Polias at Athens, which was 
fed with oil but once a year, while over it stood a brazen palm. 
As to this, Botticher justly remarks that it can have stood 
nowhere but in an aisle at the side of the statue • if placed in 
front of it, it would have shut it from view. Indeed, an altar 
Avith perpetual fire would seem to have been an usual part of a 
Greek temple, especially of such temples as belonged to the 
special state deities. Lamps were naturally among the most 
frequent donaria to temples, being of use as well as beautiful, 
and their splendour in some instances may be judged from 
the statement 3 that Dionysius presented to the Tarentines a 
candelabrum which held as many lamps as there are days in 
the year, or the fact mentioned by Cicero 4 that a candelabrum 
stolen by Verres had lighted up with the splendour of its gems 
the temple of Zeus in which it had stood. In the side aisles 
also sometimes stood the* thrones of priests and priestesses. 
The priestess at Athens who repulsed Cleomenes in his cele- 
brated attempt to enter the temple of Athena 5 is said to have 
risen from her throne at his approach. In the temple of Nemesis, 
at Ehamnus in Attica, stood two thrones, one inscribed with 
the name of Nemesis, and one with that of Themis. 

The Adytum was often part of a Greek temple. This was, as 
the name implies, "some part of the sacred building entrance to 
which was prohibited. Sometimes the whole temple was thus 
shut up, the priests alone entering on stated occasions • and 

1 Paus. v. 12, 4. 2 i. 26, 7. 3 Athen. xv. p. 'jood. 

* In Ver. ii. 4, 28. 5 Herod, v. 72. 


in fact the central part of the cella in most great temples was 
really an adytum, close approach to the statne being forbidden. 
But the term was more especially applied to those secret 
chambers in which the priests hid sacred or mysterious objects. 
These were usually underground. At Delphi there was an 
adytum in which, in the time of Pausanias, there was a golden 
statue of Apollo. Commonly when a new statue was placed in 
the cella, the older and more sacred image was removed to an 
adytum. The underground adyta were in many instances the 
grave of the mythical or traditional founder of the temple. 
Such was the case at Corinth, 1 where the grave of Palaemon 
was a subterraneous adytum, and at Amyclae, where the grave 
of Hyacinthus was below the statue of Apollo. The excava- 
tions of Rayet and Thomas at the Didymaeum at Miletus have 
disclosed in that temple an adytum which lay at a low level, 
and was probably used as an oracular shrine. 

In the temple itself, as well as in various parts of the precinct 
which surrounded it, were stelae covered with inscriptions, which 
must have been of the greatest value to Greek historians. The 
state documents of antiquity were published by being set up 
for all to see in stone or bronze in certain specified temples. 
In the treaties and agreements which have come down to us, 
as a consequence of this custom, it is sometimes provided that 
copies of the document shall be set up in the chief temples of 
the contracting parties. The various decisions as to the land 
over w r hich Samos and Priene disputed were recorded in tablets 
at the temple of Athena at Priene, many of which are now 
in the British Museum. Even laws of the state were commonly 
exposed in the temples as in a place where they would be 
accessible to all, as well as in a peculiar degree under the pro- 
tection of the gods. Even the honorary decrees, of which later 
Greece produced so abundant a crop, were frequently set up 
in temples. A quantity of such were found on the site of 
the temple of Artemis at Ephesus by Mr. Wood. Of more 
special character and more particular value were the stelae 2 at 
the temple of Asklepius at Epidaurus, on which were recorded 
the names of those who had been healed there, and their dis- 
ease, together with the mode of cure, kcu oVcus IdS-q. 

Not only were both the exterior and the interior of the 
temples adorned with sculpture by great masters, but inside 
they were complete museums of art. The ordinary place for 
the bestowal of votive wealth was the O7rio-0o(5o/zos, a part of 

1 Paus. ii. 2, i. '-' Paus. ii. 27, 3. 


the building walled off and protected by the near presence of 
the statue. This chamber is seldom mentioned by writers : 
even Vitruvius is silent in regard to it, and Pausanias passes 
by without a word even the oiricrdoSofios of the Parthenon. In 
his time it may have been empty, but abundant inscriptions 
testify to the wealth with which it overflowed in the great 
time of Athens. 

Indeed at places like Olympia and Delphi the interior of the 
temple was quite insufficient to hold the overflowing tribute 
gathered by the god from all quarters, so that a series of stone 
treasure-houses, O-qa-avpoc, had to be erected within the precinct 
for their reception. The foundations of a whole row of such 
buildings have been discovered at Olympia during the recent 

These votive offerings were most varied in character. The 
piety of votaries heaped up in the temples all kinds of objects 
in the precious metals — tripods and cups, sometimes coins or mere 
ingots of metal, such as the bricks of gold and electrum which 
Croesus presented in such abundance to the treasury at Delphi. 
Statues of precious metal or of stone were also frequently given 
to the deities. To the Olympian Zeus those who incurred a 
fine at his festival were obliged to present bronze statues of the 
god, which were set up in the sacred enclosure ; and victors at 
the games dedicated in the same way their own likenesses in 
bronze or marble. So, too, artists frequently dedicated their 
best works in the temples, thus making sure of leaving them 
to the admiration of posterity, just as some of our artists leave 
their best works to national museums. Indeed, by the results of 
this custom temples became in all parts of Greece noble museums 
full of specimens belonging to each successive phase of Greek 
artistic activity : statues and paintings, reliefs, vessels, and 
ornaments. The great work of Pausanias shows us what an 
incredible quantity of these works still remained, after all the 
ravages of the Roman conquerors, to the age of the Antonines, 
and excavations have of late years brought to light many 
scattered fragments of such wealth. 

Besides works presented on account of their beauty as worthy 
of divine acceptance, there were in the temples innumerable 
dvad-qfiara of a more personal character, presented in memory 
of some deliverance ascribed to divine aid, or perhaps given 
in fulfilment of a vow made in time of distress. Hair was 
frequently cut off by women and suspended in shrines, whether 
merely in fulfilment of some custom, such as that by which 
young men and maidens, on reaching puberty, gave their hair to 


a river-god or other ancestral deity, <»r, in consequence <>f a 
specific vow, as was the case, with the Egyptian queen Berenice. 
Numerous epigrams of the Anthology show us how common it 
was for persons to devote to the gods clothes which had been 
worn on any special or state occasion; how often musicians 
presented their lyres, fishermen their nets, the votaries of 
Aphrodite their mirrors or ornaments. 

Frequently the avaOijfiara wen; of the nature of airdp^at^ or 
the divine share of what was won in peace or Avar. 1 When 
a victory was won, Olympia or Delphi commonly received a 
certain number of spears and shields and helmets, sometimes 
inscribed with a suitable inscription, like the celebrated helmet 
in the British Museum, which was dedicated by Hiero of 
Syracuse out of Tyrrhenian spoils. States returned thanks to 
Demeter for a plentiful harvest in the form of ears of corn 
of actual not figurative gold; merchants paid a share of their 
gains to Hermes, or any other deity to whom specially they 
ascribed the success of their ventures. The colossal statue of 
Athena Promachos on the Athenian Acropolis-hill was a votive 
offering, erected from a tithe of the booty taken at Marathon. 
After the victory at Salamis the Greeks dedicated at Delphi 
a colossal statue of Salamis, personified in a female figure, who 
held a prow in her hand, as well as three Phoenician triremes 
set up, one before Poseidon at the Isthmus, one at Cape 
Sunium, and one at the island of Salamis, inscribed to the 
hero Ajax. The street of the Tripods at Athens was flanked 
by tripods dedicated to Dionysus by those citizens who had 
won them in the competitions of the Dionysia. Indeed, it 
savoured of overweening pride, according to Greek ideas, if a 
winner in any competition in games and festivals kept to 
himself the, meed he had won : by presenting it at once to 
the deities lie was supposed to show proper gratitude for their 
assistance, and at the same time to avoid the dread Erinnys, 
who was always watching prosperity with envious eyes, and 
longing to bring it to the ground. 

It has occasionally happened that an explorer lias been so for- 
tunate as to light on the unrobbed treasury of an ancient temple. 
The silver vessels found together at Bernay in France, and now 
preserved in the Louvre, were part of the temple-plate of a 
temple of Mercury. But naturally the instances in which pagan 
temples escaped robbery in early Christian times must be few. 

' Various inscriptions belonging to archaic a-rrdpxcu were recently found 
on the Athenian Acropolis. Cf. Jdhrbuch ties Inst. ii. 135. 


It is our good fortune to be particularly rich in inscriptions 
which throw light on the ancient customs of dedication. This 
results from the custom, kept up at many of the great temples 
of Greece, of year by year drawing up an inventory of all the 
objects there preserved. The custody of these was every year 
handed over to a new set of officers, and it was their first 
business on entering on their office to see that the whole temple 
wealth was handed over to them in full tale and good order. 
The outgoing officers were therefore required to have a complete 
list drawn up and engraved upon stone, and the incomers 
compared the stone with the fact. We have a large series 
of these annual lists from the Parthenon at Athens, and the 
care and minuteness with which objects are described in them 
is extraordinary. If a votive-wreath wants a leaf or two, the 
fact is set down ; if a dedicated coin is false, that also is stated. 
Nor are objects merely mentioned, but their weight is also care- 
fully recorded. We also possess one or two lists from the 
temple of Asklepius at Athens. 1 These are of late date and 
much fractured, but they are interesting as showing what kinds 
of offerings were presented to the god of healing by those who 
ascribed their cures to his favour. These consist mostly either 
of : — ( i ) Tablets with reliefs, which represent the deity and 
the votaries approaching him with offerings. Several of these 
reliefs still exist, having been lately found in the ruins of the 
temple. (2) Models in the precious metals, or in stone or wax, 
of the part of the body which had been sick and had been 
made whole, trunks, faces, eyes, and ears and the like. Some 
modern writers have fancied that a collection of votive offerings 
of this kind may have been of use to ancient physicians as 
anatomical or pathological records ; but this notion is not true 
to Greek art, which loved beauty and not deformity. The 
model dedicated would be in most cases copied from the 
restored and not the diseased limb ; 2 and even if the artist 
inserted in the model some hint of the disease, it would be but 
a hint. By the Greeks anything so repulsive as a pathological 
copy of a diseased member would scarcely have been tolerated. 
(3) Objects of value — cups, coins, and the like — which must 
be considered as payments made to the god by his grateful 
patients. The Asclepieian lists indicate in some cases with 

1 Published in the Bull. Corr. Hell. vol. ii. 

2 In the British Museum is a set of stone models of this class, found 
near the altar of Zeus Hypsistus at Athens. These represent healthy 
and not suffering members. 


considerable exactness in what part of the temple particular 
offerings were set up. 

But we know from other inscriptions that offerings were 
not regarded as tilings too sacred to touch and alter. The 
got Is commonly followed the fashion. Old fashioned and 
clumsy offerings in metal were melted down and refashioned. 
We have, for example, a decree from Oropus l in Bceotia, in 
regard to the plate of the temple of Amphiaraus, in which 
the senate and people make a decree that as the old gold 
and silver vessels of the temple are out of date and not fit 
for use, and anathemata of the precious metals have fallen 
from the walls, these shall all be collected and weighed and 
handed over by the Upap^ai in charge to three commissioners, 
chosen out of all the citizens, in order to be melted down and 
re-formed into new vessels for the temple-service. And in 
order that the pious donors of these old gifts and bequests 
may not be injured, it is ordered that their names with a 
specification of their gifts shall be inscribed on a pillar set up 
in the temple. We have two similar decrees passed by the 
Athenian people, for the purpose of renewing the sacred vessels 
of a hero, called the Hero Physician. Offerings consisting 
not of metal but of inferior substance, images in terra-cotta, 
clothes, and the like, were probably at intervals buried or burned. 
This is rendered probable by the fact that large quantities of 
fractured terra-cotta statuettes have been occasionally found 
in excavations, and to the present day the churches of the 
Levant dispose in a like summary way of offerings which have 
accumulated to an inconvenient extent. 

The inscriptions recently found at Delos, and now in course 
of publication by M. Homolle, 2 give us more complete details 
as to the custody and arrangement of votive objects in temples 
than we had before possessed. The treasures of the temple 
of Apollo in Delos were, in the times of Athenian supremacy, 
under the protection of the Amphictions ; after Delos had 
become independent they were placed in the custody of 
UpoiroLoi, who were annually appointed; and year by year, 
as at Athens, lists were drawn up by the outgoing sets of 
officers, and checked by the incoming sets, and a ceremony 
of transference took place, at which all the civic officials were 
present. The fact that these lists are dated in the third month 
of the year, Galaxion, seems to prove that they were drawn up 
with deliberation and care. This indeed sufficiently appears from 

1 C. I. 0. 1570. 2 Bull. Corr. Hell, 1882, &c. 


internal evidence : not only are the lists most detailed and exact, 
but most of the smaller objects are weighed in the public scales, 
and any defect in an article is conscientiously recorded. 

When a votive offering was brought to the temple it was 
at once registered in the list, AevKw/xa, and a registration mark 
was assigned to it, some of the letters of the Greek alphabet. 
A place was then found for it, either in the temple of Apollo 
or in some other building within the sacred precinct. From 
a study of the lists, we can realise fairly well the appearance 
which the sacred repositories must have presented. For the 
Delian lists do not, like those of Athens, record the offerings 
in their chronological order of acquisition, but follow their 
actual arrangement on wall or floor. They pass in review, 
first the right wall and then the left wall of the -n-poSofios, 
first the right and then the left wall of the temple, and even 
roughly describe the position of many objects — over the door, 
on the wall, and so on. Objects of large size were placed on 
the floor or on plinths, wreaths were ranged in rows hanging 
on the wall, phialoe and other vessels were ordered on shelves ; 
while the smaller and the most valuable of the offerings were 
placed in closets or in boxes. As a rule the new acquisitions 
were placed at the end of those already possessed ; but at long 
intervals an entire rearrangement took place, so as to bring 
together things of the same class and produce a more orderly 
sequence. A label or an incised inscription indicated, in case 
of many of the offerings, the name of the giver and occasion of 
dedication, the deity to whom they were given, and often the 
date. In fact, the Hieropoei and their subordinates did the 
work, and pursued the methods, of the custodians of national 
museums in the present day. 

Articles of great value or of historical importance do not 
seem to have been restored or kept in repair : we find their 
weight falling in inventory after inventory, and their broken or 
fragmentary condition persisting ; but the more ordinary gifts 
were kept in regular repair. Materials for such repair were 
provided by the melting down or breaking up of articles in a 
ruinous state or of bad work. At Delos the Hieropoei could 
only make recommendations as to the breaking up of worthless 
objects : a decree of the people was necessary to the carrying 
out of the recommendation ; and such decree gave explicit 
directions, as Ave have seen in the inscription from Oropus, as 
to the disposal of the proceeds. Another curious fact appears 
from the Delian lists. When animals and fruit were presented 
to the temple, and not immediately required for the temple 


services, they wove sold, and some offering of a more lasting 
character purchased with the proceeds of sale. Certain dedica- 
tions were made regularly every year. The rafitai of the town 
of Delos regularly presented twenty silver phiahe a year, and 
the Hieropcci two, and others were given on the occasion of 
festivals. The god also every year received part of the prizes 
won at the games ; but the greater part of the riches of the 
god came from the liberality of wealthy strangers. We find 
in the lists the names of Datis, Lysander, Nicias, and others, 
while the princes of the Alexandrine period vie one with the 
other in the richness of their gifts, Stratonice, wife of the 
first Antiochus, being of conspicuous liberality. It may some- 
what surprise us to learn that the dedication, even of objects 
preserved in the temple of Apollo, was by no means always to 
that deity. We might expect dedications to Artemis, who at 
Delos was so closely united to Apollo and to Leto ; and even 
to Eileithuia, who may have been reckoned as identical with 
Artemis ; but it is very remarkable to find in the lists objects 
inscribed to Asklepius, and even to Aphrodite or Hera. We 
have already classified the donaria according to the motive of 
the dedicator. M. Homolle divides them, in a more material 
aspect, into six classes : — (1) Materials of cult. Chief among 
these are the various kinds of drinking-vessels, the numbers 
and varieties of which are immense. In the temple of Apollo 
alone were preserved some 1600 of the flat vessels called by the 
Greeks (fadXai, and by the Romans paterae, mostly of silver, 
but in some cases of gold, of various patterns. It is very 
tantalising to find some of these described as covered with re- 
presentations of living creatures, but to be able to recover no 
further details. Next in number to the cfudXac are the TroWjpta. 
In an early inventory there are mentioned 266 of these vessels 
in the temple of Artemis alone ; but their number is far less in 
later inventories ; either they went out of fashion and were by 
degrees melted down, or else the term is a general one which 
at a later time gave place to more technical names. And as a 
matter of fact we find the names applied to what appear to be 
the same vessels greatly varying from list to list. There are 
many other kinds of vessels mentioned — among others those 
tripods which could in a temple of Apollo scarcely fail. 
(2) Objects of adornment. First among these may be mentioned 
the golden wreath and the ring worn by the statue of Apollo, 
Which was an archaic work by Tectaeus and Angelion. 1 In 

1 See Types of Greek Coins, pi. xv. 29. 

1 86 CULTUS 

the temple of Apollo were fifty votive wreaths hung on the 
walls. Also there were great quantities of objects of female 
adornment, clothes and jewels, presented for the most part, we 
may suppose, to Artemis, in gratitude for past or hope for future 
deliverance in time of child-birth. Among the necklaces was 
one which passed as that of Eriphyle. (3) Works of art. 
These are mostly reliefs and engraved stones. Statues are but 
few, and paintings do not occur. The obvious reason is that 
suggested by M. Homolle, that only such objects are mentioned 
in the lists as might be misplaced or stolen, and stone statues 
and the like would very naturally be omitted. (4) Tools and 
weapons. Among these, arms and the weapons of the palaestra 
take a prominent place. It is curious to note that no instru- 
ment of surgery or medicine is mentioned, which shows that 
the Delian Apollo had little connection with the healing art. 
(5) Coins. 1 These are of all countries. Many are plated. 
With what intention these last were dedicated may be doubted. 
Xo one surely would expect to win the favour of Apollo by the 
present of a false coin. Rather we may suppose them brought 
under the notice of the deity by those who had been deceived 
and incurred loss through them, to beg the vengeance of the 
deity on the unknown forger. (6) Bullion ; also bronze, ivory, 
wood, and the like, for use in the reparation and restoration of 
votive offerings. Fragments falling from statues were for this 
purpose carefully preserved. 



In Greece not only sacred enclosures and consecrated spots 
belonged to the gods, but many possessions beside. Greek 
temples, like mediaeval monasteries, possessed a large share of 
the soil of the country and all that it produced. And as land 
once given up to a deity could not without impiety again be 
made secular, a larger and larger share of the country fell into 
the hands of the deities and the religious corporations. Rut 
there were also great differences between the Greek and the 
mediaeval tenures of sacred lands. Church lands in the middle 
ages belonged either to a particular monastery or an order of 

1 See the Joum. Hell. Stud. 1884. 


religious persons, who dealt with them just as secular owners 
oi rather corporations might deal. In Greece, on the other 
hand, the principle of the division of church and state was not 
recognised. In cases where the acknowledged deities of a state, 
or one of them, held landed property, that property was indeed 
regarded as belonging to the god, and not to be touched for secular 
purposes. But the entire administration of it and control over 
it was vested in the hands of the state itself. Decrees of the 
fiovkr) and Srjfios regulated the conditions on which it should 
be let to tenants, and the measures which should he taken to 
keep it intact. Officers were appointed by the state to make 
disbursements and to audit expenditure. Only with the ritual 
and customs of the cult the state did not meddle. 

It was otherwise with the estates belonging to private founda- 
tions and attached to the temples of deities not fully recognised 
by the state. These, as we shall hereafter see, were managed 
by corporations or officers elected by them, the state retaining 
in all cases an overriding power. 

The older and more noted of the Hellenic temples possessed 
great landed estates. To the temple of Apollo at Delos belonged 
not only the soil of Delos, but also that of the far larger neigh- 
bouring island of Rhenea. To this temple the Athenian general 
Nicias 1 presented lands to the value of 10,000 drachms, on 
condition that sacrifices should be annually made with prayers 
for his prosperity. After the war in which Cirrha was destroyed, 
the Amphictions made over to the Delphic temple 2 in perpetuity 
all the lands which had belonged to that city. The temple of 
Artemis at Ephesus had, as we know from abundant testimony, 
large landed estates. The temple of Apollo at Apollonia, in 
Epirus, possessed rich pastures, on which fed flocks of sheep 
sacred to the god, which were watched and tended by an officer 
selected from among the most wealthy and honourable of the 
citizens. 3 

It must be observed that lands and flocks and herds, when 
in the possession of the gods, were often not put to most 
profitable use. For reasons of religion, the lands were often 
kept lying idle. Sophocles speaks of the arofxos Aci/xwv of Zeus 
on Mount (Eta. 4 The territory on the borders between Attica 
and Megara was kept idle and untilled, in honour of the great 
goddesses of Eleusis. Around the heroon of Hyrnetho at 
Kpidaurus was a grove of olives and other trees, the fruit of 

1 Plutarch, Nicias, 4. 2 Strabo, ix. p. 419. 

3 Herod, ix. 93. 4 Trachinice, 1. 200. 

1 88 CULTUS 

which no man was allowed to gather or carry away, nor to 
prune or cut the trees themselves. And if this was the case 
with lands, it was still more so in regard to flocks and herds. 
These animals were either left to their own devices, or at any 
rate kept only for the service and food of the deity to whom 
they belonged ; to sell them for food would have been an im- 
piety. Thus at Cyzicus there was a herd of heifers belonging 
to Persephone, which were rigidly kept for her altar. Around 
various Greek temples, especially of Artemis, Avere groves in- 
habited by all manner of wild creatures, which were never 
hunted or molested ; nay, it was said that even wolves and 
dogs never pressed the pursuit of stag or hare when it had 
once taken refuge in the sacred domain. In the temples of 
Aphrodite were flocks of doves ; and fish were kept in ponds in 
her honour, not to be molested for trade or profit. Sacred fish 
were kept in the fountain of Arethusa at Syracuse, and commonly 
in the temples of Atergatis. 1 Perhaps the commonest of these 
protected animals was the snake, a favourite in Greek temples, 
as in Greek houses, and credited by the people with a close 
connection with the dead and with the healing art. 

Nevertheless it would be absurd to suppose that the Greeks 
would systematically refuse to make use of wealth because it 
was in the hands of a god ; and the evidence of inscriptions 
proves abundantly that they let temple-lands, and put temple- 
moneys out at interest. An inscription from Ephesus 2 proves 
amply that the enormous wealth of the temple of Artemis in 
that city was let out at interest, and that officers were regularly 
appointed to collect the interest due. This appointment takes 
the form of a regular decree of the Ephesian state, and the 
commissioners are empowered to remove the names of defaulting 
debtors from the list of citizens of Ephesus. Another docu- 
ment of this class, and full of details, is the so-called Marmor 
Sandvtcense, 3 which gives the details of the annual audit of the 
temple of Apollo at Delos, while the island belonged to the 
Athenians, and the temple was in the hands of the Amphictions. 
It seems that in the year to which the inscription refers, some 
five talents were received as interest from states and private 
persons. Kent of lands and fines brought in some four talents 
more. But the sanctity of the temple does not seem to have 
weighed greatly with the debtors, for they are terribly in arrears 
in their payments, above twelve talents being set down as still 

1 Dittenberger, No. 364. 

2 Lebas and Waddington, iii. p. 56. 

3 O. I. G. 158. 


owing to the god. The inscription ends with a list of fines 
imposed by the temple officers on transgressors, together with 
a list of the houses which belonged to the temple, the position 
of each being described with an accuracy like that of a modern 

Recently the French archaeological exploration of Delos 
has resulted in the discovery of documents belonging to the 
later period of Delian independence of Athens, which are still 
more important and more detailed than even the Marmor 
Sandvicense. M. Homolle has published * an inscription of 
great length, giving the complete accounts both of receipt and 
expenditure of the Hieropcei of the temple of Apollo during the 
year, about B.C. 180, when one Demares was archon, which 
si lows us with the utmost minuteness how the treasures of the 
deity were kept, whence they were derived, and how expended. 
On each of these three heads we will give a few particulars. 

The Hieropcei (UpoTroioi) were four in number, and annually 
elected. They had entire charge of the temple and the sacred 
precinct. And they had in their keeping, three distinct 
treasuries : — ( i ) The treasury of the god. This was a chamber, 
very probably underground, containing a row of jars, o-rafxvoi. 
These were full, or partially full, of money received from a 
great variety of sources ; on each jar was an inscription stating 
the amount of money to be found in it, together with the source 
whence it was derived, and the time when it was laid by. This 
treasury was handed over with great solemnity by each suc- 
cessive set of Hieropcei to those who succeeded them, in the 
presence of several urban authorities, the town-clerk, and the 
prytanes of the senate in particular. At the same time a careful 
list of the jars, with a copy of their inscriptions, was drawn up, 
and engraved upon a slab of marble, in order that all might 
be able to see the state of the treasury of the deity, and that 
peculation might be impossible, The duties of the Hieropcei 
in connection with this treasury were simple : they had to 
deposit therein all the moneys they received from any source 
on behalf of the god, in a jar with appropriate inscription ; and 
to take out — emptying at random, apparently, any jar which 
came first — the moneys required for the divine services. They 
could not, however, enter the treasury, save in the presence of 
all the principal magistrates of the city, nor could they make 
payments of any importance without a BpeciaJ decree of the 
senate, or even the general assembly. (2) The treasury of 

1 Ball. Con: MM. 1SS2. 

1 90 CULTUS 

the state. This is perfectly distinct from the other, and 
seems to have been handed over to the sacred magistrates 
merely for the sake of custody. The Hieropcei add money 
to it or remove money from it under the same rigid conditions 
as those existing in regard to the sacred treasury. But there 
is probably the difference that they had some control of the 
religious budget and expenses, whereas in case of the civic they 
were merely convenient agents of the city officials. (3) The 
votive gifts placed in the temple and in neighbouring buildings. 
As to these I spoke in the last chapter. 

The accounts drawn up by these Delian Hieropcei give us 
ample information as to the sources of revenue of the temple 
and its channels of expenditure. The sources of revenue were 
the following : — (1) Rents of houses and of farms, the former 
termed kvoiK ta, the latter kvr\ poena. Both kinds of property 
were leased in accordance with the provisions of a document 
called 7) Upa o-vyypa^i), for the space of ten years. The occupier 
was bound to find sureties, and to pay his rent regularly at 
fixed times ; failing which, he was first to be condemned to 
pay an increased rent, and if still insolvent, might have his 
stock and property sold, and his name might be inscribed on 
the list of debtors to the god. It is a very curious fact which 
M. Homolle 1 deduces from a comparison of several hieropceic 
lists, most of them still unpublished, that in the course of 
history, coming down from the fourth to the second century 
B.C., the rents of houses in Delos rise steadily and rapidly, while 
those of farms show as regular a declension. (2) Tolls and 
imports, TeXrj. The god or his representatives seem to have 
levied taxes on every pursuit in the island which could be 
made to bear them, on purple fishing and sea fishing, on the 
ferry to Rhenea and Myconos, and on pasturage. Every 
vessel which came to the harbour had to pay its tax, or more 
than one tax, accordingly as it merely touched at the island, 
or landed its burden there. (3) Tokoi, interest of loans. This 
source of income figures more largely in the early lists, such as 
the Marmor Sandvicense, than in the later ; but it was at all 
times important. The loans were made for five years ; each 
year interest at the rate of ten per cent, had to be paid, and the 
principal returned at the end of the period. In case of default, 
all the goods of the debtor were liable to seizure. (4) Miscel- 
laneous. Under this head come sales of temple-property, 
animals, doves, and the like ; also the subvention paid by the 

1 Op. cit. p.. 65. 


state towards the expenses of the Thesmophoria, the produce 
of the Orjo-avpoi, and that which came from the phiale, Ik tt/s 
</>iaA?js, the last a phrase of unexplained meaning. As it 
recurs every month, it looks as if a collection for the god were 
made in a plate at the monthly sacrifices. 

It is a curious fact that these moneys do not come direct to 
the Hieropcei, but are in all cases entered by them, as received 
from intermediaries. The regular phrase is dirb rrjs Ni^^oSw/aov 
KaVHpaK\ei8ov, diro ttjs ^i'Awvos kcu ^LlXtjvov, and SO on. M. 
Homolle supplies after t?)s the word StotKrjo-ew?, and supposes 
the intermediaries to be SioiKrjTai, who received the dues and 
passed them on : possibly rpa-Ki^s may be really the word to 
be supplied. Three payments out of four come in in the 
month Poseideon, which was the last of the Delian year. 

Besides the above channels of revenue, appear others of a less 
regular character. These come through the hands, not of the 
SioLK-qral, but of the ra/ucu, who are civic officers annually 
elected to regulate the expenses of the state. These receipts 
may be divided into three classes : ( i ) repayments by the town to 
the temple of sums previously advanced ; (2) money paid by the 
state for religious purposes, such as the training of a chorus, 
to xo/^yopKov, and the cost of exhibitions given by a society 
of TJionysiac artists ; (3) the half share in certain civic taxes, 
the other half of which went to the state. And in addition to 
all these, the revenue was swelled by confiscation of the goods 
of those who committed impious actions, and perhaps by occa- 
sional contributions from abroad. M. Homolle reckons the 
total revenue of the temple from all sources at about 27,000 
drachms, representing some ^900 of our money ; but if we 
make allowance for the greater value of money in antiquity, we 
shall find that the temple was as wealthy in comparison with 
its surroundings as with us would be an institution far from 
any large city with a revenue of ,£15,000 or £"20,000 a year. 

The expenses of the temple are set forth with the same 
minuteness in the invaluable document which we are analys- 
ing. Of the heads by far the most important is that which 
monthly recurs under the vague title, els ra 'ipya. These works 
absorb in the course of the year nearly 10,000 drachms. They 
comprise almost all that was necessary to keep up the temple 
buildings and services. There was a great deal constantly 
going on in the way of repairs and new constructions, to 
superintend which an architect or clerk of the works was in 
constant employment at the comparatively large salary of 720 
drachms a year. Each piece of work was given out to con- 


tractors, on stringent conditions. They had to find sureties; 
and the details of construction, the nature of the materials, the 
time allowed for completion, and the epochs of payment were all 
rigorously fixed. In the accounts of the archonship of Charilas 1 
it appears that one half of the contract price was paid to 
the contractors on their producing security, T 4 ^ on completion 
of half the work, and y 1 ^ on its entire completion. Money 
being thus advanced for the payment of wages, it is evident 
how necessary was the nomination of sureties — an almost in- 
variable custom in Greek contracts of every nature. The Zpya 
also include monthly payments for current expenses, and the 
larger annual outlays on the occasion of festivals. For the 
latter a vote of the assembly was usual. The regular expendi- 
ture was moreover placed on a board, XevKoypa, and exposed in 
the market-place. Monthly a pig was purchased for the purifi- 
cation of the temple, and a quantity of wood, coal, and resin for 
the various altars, and flowers and crowns for the officiating 
priests. We also find entries for paper and other materials. 
The annual expenses included the yearly dedication of a statue 
to Dionysus, with all that attended it ; the erection of a tablet 
recording the accounts of the Hieropoei for the year, which 
sometimes cost as much as 200 drachms ; and the salaries of the 
officers and servants of the temple. The list of these salaries 
is most instructive ; the best paid official by far is the clerk of 
the works, who receives 720 drachms a year; the secretary 
receives but 80; the neocori, from 180 to 60; a KprjvocfivXa^ 
well - keeper, 90; a TraXatcrrpoc^vXa^, 120; kirip,eXr)Ta\ and 
€7riTifxr)Tal receive some 40 to 60 drachms a head, in the way of 
travelling fees, !<£oSia ; finally, certain flute-players, avXrjrai, 
receive each some 120 to 140 drachms for food, and 16 to 20 for 
dress ; probably a special dress was required of them when 
they attended at sacrifices. The salaries, it is interesting to 
observe, are fixed, identical in the earlier and later lists. 

Besides the regular expenditure on the works, we find extra- 
ordinary outlays on special occasions. A certain sum was 
voted ets tt)v Karaa-K€vr)v rov vaov rrjs 'AprcpuSos, no doubt some 
special piece of work on that temple ; and another, for a crown 
of gold for King Philip, who must be Philip V. of Macedon. 
Also a loan was repaid. The total of ordinary expenses of 
a year amounted, about B.C. 180, to some 21,000 drachms; but 
as we may see from the list of salaries, a drachm went among 
the Greeks almost as far as a pound with us. 

1 At present unpublished : our authority is still M. Homolle. 


A few documents recording the letting of temple-lands have 
come down to us. The noted Tabulae Heracleenses 1 arc a 
document of this nature, and contain the most detailed and 
carefully drawn list of conditions on which certain temple-lands 
at Heraclea, in Italy, are to be let. The tenants are to pay a rent 
of 400 medimni of wheat, and to find sureties for five years ; 
if they sub-let, the sub-tenants are to find sureties in the same 
way. In that part of the land which is fit for growing vines, 
vines shall be planted over at least ten schoeni ; in all the land 
suitable for olive-growing, olives shall be planted, at least four in 
every schoenus. If a dispute arise as to the capabilities of the 
soil, the land shall be examined by a commission, and a report 
on oath made to the public assembly. The roads are to be 
kept in repair, water-courses kept up, and certain farm build- 
ings erected within a given time. In case of non-compliance 
with these conditions, the lessees are to pay a heavy fine. 

Such conditions may have been part of the ordinary routine 
of letting lands in a well-managed estate. Other inscriptions, 
however, show us that there were certain peculiarities in deal- 
ing with sacred lands. For example, some inscriptions from 
Olymus, in Caria, 2 record the letting of lands belonging to 
Zeus Labrandeus, Apollo, and Artemis. This is done, as is 
usual in all such cases, by a decree of the people. The lessees 
are to cultivate the lands as if they were their own, and the 
possession is to descend to their heirs and assigns. But there 
is a very strange provision as to the rent : it is to be not less 
than half the interest of the purchase-money of the estates. 
It seems very strange that temples which could give perfect 
security of possession to a tenant, and were in every respect 
most eligible landlords, should choose to exact so low a rent. 
The same thing appears with equal clearness in case of an 
inscription from Mylasa, 3 which records that one Thraseas, 
having two landed estates near that city, sold both to the com- 
missioners of the temple of Zeus Hypsistus for a sum of 7000 
drachms, lie then made his appearance before the public 
assembly and offered to hold the lands as before, paying to the 
temple-funds annually the sum of 300 drachms. This offer 
was accepted on certain stated conditions ; if the rent was not 
regularly paid, the land was to be entered on by the commis- 
sioners. In this case it is easy to see what advantage Thraseas 
gains by the transaction. He receives 7000 drachms, for which 

1 C. I. No. 5774. 

1 Lebas and Waddington, iii. No. 332. 

3 C. /. No. 2693c. 

1 94 CULTUS 

he pays as interest only 300, which would be scarcely half the 
interest usual among the Greeks. The title to the property 
would also be improved by being placed under the protection 
of the deity. But it is not so clear what the temple gains ; it 
seems to lay out a sum of money at very low interest, and to 
gain no contingent advantage, unless it be the remote chance of 
entering into possession of the property, in case Thraseas incurs 
forfeiture. Bceckh says, "templa malebant prsedia emere, quae 
emphyteutis possidenda traderent, quam pecuniam mutuam 
dare cum periculo damni." But this seems insufficient ex- 
planation for so anomalous a case ; nor does M. Waddington 1 
attempt any explanation. 

Temples had sometimes a lien upon lands belonging to indi- 
viduals, for procuring some articles required in the temple 
services. Thus in Attica in certain districts the olives were 
regarded as the property of Athena; and the tenants were 
bound to furnish a certain quantity of oil to the state at a 
fixed price, to be used for sacred purposes in connection with 
the festivals of Athena. 

The temples were large slave-owners. Like other owners of 
lands, they required slaves to cultivate the soil ; and in addition 
there were many menial offices in connection with temples 
which were beneath the dignity of freemen. On the table- 
land of Phrygia, whence the Greeks borrowed much of their 
religion and their art, it was customary to find grouped about 
great temples communities of hierodules (Upol SovAoi), who 
enjoyed the protection of the shrine, and in return lived in a 
state of practical serfdom towards it. In historical Hellas we 
only find here and there traces of such a state of things, as, for 
instance, in the relation in which the Craugallidae lived to the 
Delphian temple ; but it may have been common in earlier 
days. The ordinary means by which the supply of temple- 
slaves was kept up was war, a certain proportion of the captives, 
as of the other spoil, being dedicated to the gods. Sometimes, 
however, the sons and daughters of freemen were set aside for 
the service of the gods in consequence of legend or oracle ; for 
instance, every year two virgins from Locri were sent to be 
slaves in the temple of Athena at Ilium, in order to make 
atonement for the violation of that temple by the Locrian Ajax 
Oileus; and this custom was, we are told, kept up for a 
thousand years. In certain of the temples of Aphrodite, 2 

1 Lebas and Waddington, iii. No. 416. 

2 Strabo, vi. p. 418 ; viii. p. 581. 


that at Kryx, for instance, and that of Corinth, were crowds of 
female slaves who produced a revenue for the goddess by the 
practice of prostitution — a practice which at once reveals the 
oriental origin of the cult of Aphrodite. There is a story told 
by Pausanias, 1 how Herakles, having vanquished the Dryopes 
in battle, placed them at the disposal of the Delphian Apollo, 
who sent them by an oracular response to colonise Asine. 

The manumission of slaves was commonly accomplished by 
devoting them to the service of some deity, after which they 
enjoyed the protection of the priest and the sanctuary, while 
their work could easily by arrangement be made merely nominal. 
In such cases a sum of money commonly passed. It was 
really the ransom provided by the slave himself, but nominally 
it was paid by the temple which purchased him. As the 
purchase was thus fictitious on the part of the temple, it is 
likely that the servitude was thereafter little more than nominal. 
We have abundant inscriptions from Delphi which give us 
• ■nmplete details as to this mode of enfranchisement. It was 
accompanied by a solemn ceremony in the presence of several 
witnesses, and the emancipating master had to find securities 
that he would not attempt again to reduce the slave to bondage, 
nor allow any one else to do so. Sometimes he made conditions 
reserving for himself the right to the services of the slave for 
a certain specified time or until his own death. 

It is commonly stated that besides being capitalists and 
lending money, temples received sums on deposit for safe 
keeping and restored them to the lenders on demand. The 
temple of Artemis at Ephesus seems to have been especially 
used for this purpose, and some writers go so far as to compare 
its position in the commercial world to that now held by the 
Bank of England. This, however, is gross exaggeration. As 
a rule money placed in a temple became sacred and could not 
be withdrawn, or at least could only be taken for purposes of 
state. Most of the passages quoted in defence of the view just 
mentioned refer to peculiar cases. Xenophon, for example, 
deposited a sum of money in the Ephesian temple and after- 
wards withdrew it, but it was in order to found a new temple 
of Artemis in Peloponnese. In other instances we hear of 
money left by states and individuals in the hands of the people 
of Ephesus and by them honourably returned. They may 
have kept the treasures in the temple or its vicinity ; but 
hading to the Ephesian state was another thing than lending 


to the estate of the goddess. It is obvious, that if it had been 
lawful to place money in temples for security and withdraw it 
at pleasure, such a privilege would have been very frequently 
used, and the priests would have become regular bankers, 
which they never were. It is, however, maintained by Professor 
E. Curtius that the earliest coins were issued by temples which 
felt the need of a ready currency, and this theory though not 
proved is plausible. 

In a somewhat different category must be placed the A\ r ealth 
laid up in the temples of many of the great deities of Greece, 
notably in that of Athena at Athens. In the opinion of the 
Greeks the deities of a state were quite as much concerned in 
its preservation as were the citizens themselves ; they therefore 
did not hesitate in times of straits to borrow money from the 
sacred treasuries, to be repaid at some more convenient season. 
We have an Athenian inscription 1 which records such a trans- 
action. It appears that in the time of the Peloponnesian war, 
during the eleven years B.C. 433-422, considerable sums of 
money were advanced to the Athenian state by the treasurers of 
Athena and of the other gods ; and that, after the conclusion 
of the peace of Nicias in B.C. 421, this money was repaid with 
interest. This was probably no isolated case ; but the same 
thing, at least as far as the borrowing Avas concerned, would 
have taken place in other cities. But on the whole the Greeks 
respected these deposits ; and when temple treasures were 
violated, as by the Pisatae when they obtained possession of 
Olympia, and by the Phocians when they seized Delphi, all 
that was best in the race was scandalised, and a speedy 
vengeance of the offended gods fell, or was supposed to fall, on 
the violators. 



On the origin of religious societies and sacred places in Greece, 
some light is shed by the interesting and valuable inscription 
from Thera, which is called the will of Epicteta. 2 Epicteta 
having lost her husband Phoenix and two sons, erected in her 
lifetime heroa in their honour in a sacred precinct dedicated 
by her husband to the Muses. On the point of death she 

1 Corpus Inter. Att. No. 273. J C. I. 2448. 


made careful provision that these heroa, together with that 
to he erected in her own honour, should have worship in all 
future time. She bequeaths the sum of 3000 drachms, seemed 
upon real property, to a Community of Kinsfolk, kolvov twv 
(rryyeiw, and arranges that her daughter Epiteleia, who in- 
herits lici' property, including the precinct of the Muses, shall 
pay annually to the said community the sum of 210 drachms. 
Every year the community is to meet at the temple of the 
Muses, when the rent of Epiteleia is to be paid over. They 
are then to appoint certain of their number to see to the 
performance of certain sacrifices, the particulars of which are 
duly set forth, and to order a banquet. The Community of 
Kinsfolk is to include all the descendants of the testatrix, 
and the priest to preside at the temple of the Muses and 
the heroa shall be the eldest son of her daughter Epiteleia, 
with reversion to the eldest male of her family, in case of 
his decease. 

This testament brings into curious relief many of the chief 
characteristics of Greek cult. A cult could be founded by the 
mere intention and wish of any one so disposed, and the founder 
could even include himself among the persons thus honoured. 
He could appoint a priest by the mere provisions of a will, a 
priest not only of deceased ancestors but even of deities. 
Another notable fact is the social and family character of 
some cults. A family gathering, with sacrifices to deceased 
parents and a feast — such was a common idea of worship in 
Greece. If it had happened that the descendants of Epiteleia 
had greatly multiplied, the heroes mentioned in the inscription 
might have been revered as founders of cities or nations. If 
some chance had brought the local worship of the Muses into 
prominence and popularity, the little Movcrdov might have 
grown into a great rc/xevos, with temples and treasuries; and 
the local priest, whose functions were exerted but for a few 
days in the year, might have become the head of a hierarchy, 
the deliverer of oracular responses, or the eponymous magistrate 
of a republic. It is highly probable that many of the greatest 
cults in Greece had an origin as humble as that of the Mova-elov 
at Thera. 

The process by which cults passed from families to tribes 
is well illustrated by an inscription from the island of Chios, 1 
erected by the phratria of the Clytidse to record certain 
phases of their common history. The very form of the name 

1 Dittenberger, Sylloyc, No. 360. 


of the phratria implies that its members considered themselves 
to be descended from one person. But their common cultus 
was not nominally directed to him, but to Zeus Patroius, 
which is the same thing in a varied form. It appears from 
the inscription that for a time certain families of the phratria 
retained in their private dwellings sacred objects essential to 
the cultus, and made these houses the seat of worship. This 
exclusiveness displeased the other members, and these decided, 
after omens had been taken by sacrifice as to the propriety 
of such a step, to build a temple to receive these sacred objects, 
and to make a temenos round it. But it seems that even 
after the erection of this temple the matter was not settled, 
for the patrician houses still claimed the right of taking to 
their homes the sacred objects after all the customary cere- 
monies had been enacted. Omens were again taken, and in 
accordance with their direction it was further ordered that the 
sacred objects should thenceforth never be removed from the 
temple, but remain there in perpetuity. This record shows 
us with the greatest exactness the process which took place 
when a cultus spread from a family to a phratria. 

And by a continuation of precisely the same process, the 
cultus might spread from a phratria to a city, whether its 
object were an ancestor or a deity. iEacus, 1 founder of the 
noblest family of iEgina, was reckoned one of the heroes who 
protected that island ; and indeed, so much was his defence 
of it dreaded, that the Athenians, when they meditated an 
attack on it, founded in their own city a cult of the hero, in 
order to make his opposition to them less keen. It has 
even been suggested that the Eleusinian cultus of Demeter 
was originally the private possession of the family of the 
Eumolpidae, and that the Athena of Athens herself was 
originally the family deity of the Butadse. And, like the 
family and the phratria, so the city too had a common hearth 
and a common table. Both were in the prytaneium. There 
daily dined certain persons selected to represent the city — 
magistrates, or distinguished men. At Athens those who won 
a victory at the Olympic games had the right thereafter to a 
public maintenance in the prytaneium. There, too, was main- 
tained a perpetual fire, the sign of the presence of Hestia, in 
which were offered sacrifices to all deities and heroes acknow- 
ledged by the state. Ordinary altars were dedicated to one 
or at most two deities, but the public city hearth could be 

1 Herod, v. 89. 


appropriated by none, though the offerings to which it was 
most completely adapted were those offered to the heroic 
founders of the state. 

Hermann l begins his account of Greek priests with the 
statement that cultus was based upon exchange of services ; 
and though the phrase may seem harsh, it conveys the truth. 
Notions of self-devotion and asceticism must be laid aside in 
thinking of Greek cultus. Of the three parties concerned in 
worship, each made some advantage. The deity received 
sacrifice and veneration ; the votary who brought these gained 
in return divine assistance in the matters he had in hand. 
The priest who was the mediator between the two had his 
share of the offering and no small part of the honour. 

Among the Hebrews there was a rigid line of demarcation 
between prophet and priest, even a frequent rivalry and 
clashing between the two orders. The priest had to do with 
the ceremonial observances of the Temple : he offered sacrifice, 
and carried out the detailed injunctions of the Mosiac Law, but 
he was not regarded as speaking in the name of Jehovah. The 
prophet, on the other hand, might come of any race or family, 
had nothing to do with ceremonial observances, belonged to 
no caste or clan ; but when once acknowledged he was regarded 
as one who had special faculties for ascertaining the Divine 
will and intentions, and his voice was listened to with all 
respect as being the nearest exponent of the will of Jehovah. 

There was the same distinction among the Greeks, though 
the different character of their religion made it seem less 
pronounced. The fxavris or soothsayer was quite a different 
class of being from the Upevs or priest. The priest was 
attached to a particular temple, and was usually in the service 
of one particular deity. The soothsayer was altogether un- 
attached, and his function was to read the will of heaven in 
all that went on in the world, to exhort, to warn and threaten. 
He saw the future as wrapped up in the present through the 
wisdom and clearness of vision which the gods bestowed on 
him. The soothsayers, however, will concern us hereafter. 
Their importance gradually diminished in the course of Greek 
history. Detached and wandering prophets, instead of being 
respected, as among the Jews, were by the later Greeks 
thoroughly despised, and regarded as charlatans or barbarians, 
though in the days of Homer their honour had been not 
inconsiderable. Their function partly died out and partly was 

1 (iottesdienstliche Alterth. ch. xxxiii. sqq. 


put in commission. Poets were regarded as more worthy 
mediums for the communication of the will of the gods. The 
oracles grew constantly in fame, and established a regular 
business in responses from gods and heroes ; and the mysteries 
were regarded as taking men direct into the divine presence. 

As the consideration of the prophets declined, that of the 
priests proportionally increased, and at the same time they 
managed to get into their hands many of the functions pre- 
viously exercised by the laity. In early times, any head of a 
family was regarded as competent, not merely to conduct the 
family worship of ancestors, but to carry through almost any 
sacrifice or ceremony, except those of a public and national 
character. If he wished to sacrifice to Zeus or Apollo, he did 
so in his own house at the family hearth. Or, if he preferred 
calling in assistance, he would summon to his aid some 
soothsayer like Calchas or Tiresias to conduct the ceremony, 
while the minor functions would be performed by heralds. 
This irregular worship, though it never quite ceased in Greece, 
fell into the background as the temples grew and multiplied, 
and the priests increased in number and importance. 

It is remarkable how seldom priests are mentioned in Homer, 
and how little they have to do with the action of the early 
epics. They are spoken of, indeed, with respect, as venerated 
like gods by the people, and under full protection of the 
deities to whom they were attached, as unmistakably appears 
in the first book of the Iliad. But the Greek army is ac- 
companied by no train of priests, and sets up no temples. If 
the generals wish to ascertain the divine will, they trust to 
dreams, the explanation of which they seek not from pro- 
fessional expounders, but from the wisest men to be found ; 
or they ask Calchas for the interpretation of flights of birds 
and motions of serpents. If they wish to make a sacrifice, 
the king with his heralds carries it out, assisted by chiefs 
and people. The idea that the priest has a monopoly of the 
means of addressing heaven has not yet arisen. 

The radical connection between priest and king survived to 
a late time of Greek civilisation. The Kings of Sparta, as 
might have been expected, were especially given to asserting 
their right to offer sacrifice. One of them was priest of Zeus 
Hypsistus, the other of Zeus Lacedaemon ; but it was not to 
Zeus alone that they sacrificed. Cleomenes, 1 after defeating 
the Argives, marched to the Herseum ; and after by force 

1 Herod, vi. 81. 


turning out the priest, proceeded to sacrifice to Hera in his 
own person. Pausanias, after the victory at Plataea, sacrificed 
in the agora of that city to Zeus Eleutherius ; l and in some 
cities, notably Athens, after kings had become in a political 
sense things of the past, the name was still continued and 
applied to an elected officer, who took in cult and sacrifice the 
part which had originally belonged to the real king. The 
reason is evident. The Greeks would not expect the favour 
of the gods to rest on any change of institutions which 
involved loss to their interests. Men were free to change 
political institutions, but not without divine permission to 
innovate in the matters of cult. The /Saa-iXev^ was not a priest 
regularly attached to a particular deity or a special temple ; 
but he had to represent the state at various festivals, such 
as the Lenaea and Anthesteria, and to perform sacrifices of 
ancient institution with which the prosperity of the state was 
supposed to be bound up. His wife, the /iWiAicro-a, had also 
duties in connection with the Anthesteria. He was elected 
by lot, and must be of blameless repute, and one who had 
been initiated in the mysteries ; his wife also had to be of true 
Attic family and correct life. We hear of somewhat obscure 
magistrates at other cities, who bore the title king, and repre- 
sented no doubt the same principle. More frequently, however, 
when republican succeeded to monarchical government, the new 
elective heads of the state took over the religious functions of 
the kings, as well as their other duties and rights. Thus in 
many states the Prytanes managed the affairs of religion. 

Most of the great cults of Greece belonged in the origin to 
a family or sept, from whom by degrees cities or states adopted 
them. We cannot therefore be surprised, conservatism in all 
countries prevailing in religious matters, to find the priest- 
hood of many deities restricted to the members of a particular 
family. The Eteobutadae at Athens were alone eligible as 
priestesses of Athena Polias ; from the ranks of none but the 
Eumolpidae and the Ceryces could be taken the hierophant 
and torch-bearer of Demeter and Cora at Eleusis. The 
priesthood of Apollo at Didyma belonged of right to the 
Branchidae. Telines carried from Cnidus to Gela in Sicily 
certain rites pertaining to the Great Goddesses ; and in com- 
municating these to the city, his family reserved the right of 
being hierophants of the cult. Herodotus tells us' 2 that this 
tenure of office gave them ascendency in the city, so that in 

1 Thuc. ii. 71. - Herod, vii. 153. 


time one of them, Gelon, made himself master of the city, 
and finally of a great part of Sicily. The Asclepiadae at 
Cos kept in their hands the priesthood of the temple of 
Asclepius, and with it something of a monopoly in the exercise 
of healing arts. It was natural that in cases where a cnlt 
belonged to one family, the priest should succeed by some rule 
of inheritance. The rule which we have already noticed in 
the case of the priesthood founded by Epicteta, that the eldest 
male descended from a particular person should succeed, was 
a not unusual one. Thus we have a long list in an in- 
scription from Halicarnassus, of the priests early or mythical, 
who had presided at the temple of Poseidon, beginning with 
a son of Poseidon himself. In this list, brother succeeds 
brother more often than son, father ; which shows that the 
principle of descent ignored primogeniture, and the office 
descended to the eldest male. This is, indeed, the common 
rule in primitive communities. 

Most priesthoods, however, were less restricted in their tenure, 
and could be filled by any one thereto appointed by election 
or lot. Even when the lot was the final arbiter, only those 
were allowed to appeal to it who possessed the due qualifica- 
tions. The exact nature of these qualifications was seldom 
set forth by the ancients, but we can gather their nature 
from a variety of statements. The first qualification for any 
priest or priestess was that he or she should be a full citizen, 
a bond fide member of the state to which the priesthood 
belonged. No alien could perform the traditional rites to 
the satisfaction of the civic deities ; nor would a priest 
attached to a temple of Apollo or Athena at one city be 
allowed to assume office in the temple of the same deity else- 
where. A priest must also, like the victims he offered, and 
like all creatures presented to the gods, be free from every 
corporeal blemish and defect ; no piety or wisdom would 
make up for deformity or incompleteness. And he must be 
of good and unblemished reputation ; though this provision, 
being of less external and definite character than the others, 
might be more commonly neglected. In one city, 1 at Messene, 
it was ordained, that if a child of priest or priestess died 
during the term of office, the parent had at once to vacate the 
office. There were cults in which ministers were chosen for 
personal beauty : more commonly a certain rank and birth 
were required in a priest. 

1 Paus. iv. 12, 4. 


But, in fact, each temple had its own law in the matter. 
Herodotus l remarks that in Egypt men only could become 
priests, whereas in Greece this honour was extended to both 
sexes. But we must not suppose that anywhere priests or 
priestesses were appointed indiscriminately ; nor was the simple 
rule adopted that a priest should tend a god and a priestess a 
goddess. The whole matter was one of tradition and usage, 
accordant with sacred legend or oracular response. On the 
same grounds it was sometimes a fixed rule that an elderly 
person should be appointed, or a child. 

Though temperance and chastity were looked for in priest 
and priestess, yet celibacy was seldom required. In cases of a 
few cults either of foreign origin or peculiar character we do 
find this requirement. Thus in the temple of Artemis Hymnia 2 
in Arcadia, the priest and priestess were bound to complete 
chastity, and fenced in by a set of regulations so strict that 
they could not even visit the house of a private person. The 
hierophant at Eleusis was obliged to abstain from all sexual 
indulgence, and in many cities the priestesses of Artemis and 
Athena were required to be virgins. But so contrary to nature 
did this regulation seem to the Greeks, and so hard was it to 
them to observe it, that usually chastity or celibacy was under- 
stood in a very modified form. Thus it was a common provi- 
sion at temples that the priestess should be married but once ; 
and when the regulations were more stringent, the office was 
held either by an aged widow, or by a young girl, who ceased 
to hold her function when she came to the age of marriage. 
Instances of this arrangement occur in the temple of Poseidon 3 
at Calaureia, and that of Herakles at Thespise. 4 The priestess 
of Artemis Hymnia was originally a young virgin, but the 
beauty of a priestess having caused the violation of the sanc- 
tuary by King Aristocrates, the violator was stoned ; but it was 
ordained that in future the priestess should be an elderly woman. 5 
Chastity during a particular feast or celebration, or even for a 
short term of office, was more commonly required, especially in 
the cult of Demeter and that of Dionysus. The priest of the 
Misogynous Herakles in Phocis had to maintain his continence 
during the year of his office. The practice of securing chastity 
by mutilation seems to have been entirely foreign to Greek 
ideas, though it was very usual in Asia Minor in the cultus 

1 Herod, ii. 35. He is wrong as to Egypt. 

- Pans. viii. 13, I. 3 Paus. ii. 33, 3. 

Pans. ix. 27, 5. 5 Pans. viii. 5, 12. 


of Cybele and deities of her class, such as the Ephesian 

As early as Homer we find mention of an elected priestess. 1 
Of Theano Antenor's wife we read — 

tt]v yap Tpwes WrjKav 'AOrjvairjs ie/)eiay, 

and this custom of election by the people was usual in later 
times in the case of those priesthoods which were not inherited. 
In Hellenistic times kings and generals freely assumed the 
right of appointing priests and priestesses within the dominions 
over which they happened to bear sway. With this election 
was mixed as an additional or alternative means of decision 
the casting of lots. The election of the priestess of Ge Eury- 
sternos near JEgdd was determined by lots ; 2 but only those could 
draw lots who fulfilled the conditions required, that is, they 
must have been married but once, and otherwise preserved 
their chastity, and had to maintain their character by a judicial 
test of drinking the blood of bullocks. The lot is also men- 
tioned in inscriptions 3 in connection with election in such a 
way that it looks as if the people sometimes elected a certain 
number of persons as fit to hold priesthoods, and to these were 
assigned by lot the service of particular deities. In fact in 
some of the inherited priesthoods the choice of a person in the 
priestly family was made by lot and not by seniority. 

Sometimes the method of election was less orderly. We hear 
of lawsuits at Athens, in the court of the king archon, arising 
from disputed succession to some sacerdotal function, and we 
even hear of a sale of priesthoods. In an inscription from 
Erythrae in Ionia there is a record of sales of priesthoods and 
of the prices fetched by them in the market. The most valuable 
of those mentioned seems to have been the priesthood of 
Hermes Agorseus, who probably, as the office fetched the 
large sum of 4610 drachms, had some claim to market dues. In 
a Halicarnassian inscription 4 the post of priestess of Artemis 
Pergaea is put up for sale, but can only be purchased by a lady 
of aristocratic descent. She is to be entitled to a certain share 
of the sacrifices and other emoluments, which seem to have 
constituted at Halicarnassus a respectable provision for a woman 
of the upper class. 

The duration of priesthoods varied not less than their other 
conditions, and depended also on the circumstances of their 

1 11. vi. 300. 2 Paus. vii. 25, 13. 

3 C. I. ii. 2270, 2374c 4 0. I. 2656. 


origin or local traditions. The most ordinary tenure, perhaps, 
was that for life, 8u\ fiCov. The Hierophant of Elensis was 
appointed for life, so was the priest of Hippolytus at Trce/.cn, 
the priestesses of Hera and Aphrodite at Aphrodisias, and a 
host of others. A fresh appointment annually was also very 
usual, more especially, as Schomann well observes, in cults of 
late origin and in democratic states, while life-priesthoods 
belong on the contrary to old cults and aristocratic states. 
More especially in Hellenistic and Roman times it became 
usual to change priests with frequency in order to bestow the 
honours on as many people as possible in rotation. Sometimes 
again the appointment was for a term of years. The boy who 
was priest of Athena Cransea at Elateia in Phocis x held office 
for five years, and lads had to be elected at such an age as 
not to emerge into manhood before the end of their term of 
office. Sometimes a religious functionary was elected merely 
in connection with a particular feast or ceremony ; the Hiero- 
phant of the mysteries of the chthonian goddesses at Phlius 2 
for instance ; a fresh Hierophant being appointed for each 
celebration, which took place every fourth year. 

The duties of priest and priestess were, as we have already 
had occasion to observe, strictly confined to the particular 
temple to which they were appointed. In late times we meet 
with instances in which popular or prominent men combine 
in their own persons the sacerdotal functions of several cults ; 
but this kind of pluralism was all but unknown in earlier times. 
The functions of religious officers varied, as we shall presently 
see, at various places. Speaking generally, we can only say 
that it was their duty as servants of the deity whom they 
tended to conduct sacrifices in his honour, to give facilities of 
approach to worshippers and suppliants, to maintain becoming 
order in the sacred precincts, and to see that all the generally 
unwritten laws and regulations of the place were duly observed. 
They had to protect and keep in repair temple and image, 
and to preserve objects dedicated. They had to supervise the 
feasts and processions in honour of their deity, and generally to 
protect his fame and property alike by the courageous assertion 
of his rights against intruders, ami by the maintenance of 
orderly and dignified bearing in the city. In village temples 
there might be a single priest, and he might find himself com- 
pelled to undertake all these duties at once, down to slaughter- 
ing the victims and cleaning the temple ; but usually in great 

1 Pau8. x. 34, 8. 2 Paus. ii. 14, I. 


cities and at celebrated temples there was a regular hierarchy 
of officers, who divided among themselves the duties just 

The Greeks, with their love of what was externally fitting, 
thought much not only of the character of their priests and 
their personal beauty, but also of their appearance and dress, 
which had to be such as befitted their office. Aristides * says of 
Pericles that he lived with such complete decency that his life 
was like that of a priest. Their garments were ample and 
trailing, and of white colour, though purple was sometimes 
worn by priests of chthonic cults. The king-archon at Athens 
had shoes of a special cut, /3acriA.i8es, 2 no doubt cothurni, like 
those worn by actors to increase their stature and dignity. 
The stephanephorus of Herakles at Tarsus wore white shoes, 
and a garment of white with purple stripe. Chryses is re- 
presented in Homer 3 as bearing a sceptre adorned with gold, 
like that carried by kings, and in other passages the staves of 
office of priests are not seldom mentioned. They usually wore 
garlands made of myrtle or laurel, flowers or fruit, according 
to the attributes of their deity ; the laurel belonging to Apollo 
and Zeus, myrtle to Aphrodite, olive to Athena, and so forth. 
And they also, like victors in the games, wound taeniae or fillets 
about their heads and arms, as well as about the sacred tripods 
and the property of the gods. Priests allowed their hair to 
grow long, in the good archaic Hellenic fashion, and this was 
the more conspicuous as they sacrificed bare-headed. The 
priestesses let their garlanded hair flow down freely. At the 
great festivals it was not unusual for a priest or priestess to 
appear publicly in the exact semblance of the patron deity; 
the priestess of Athena to appear in full armour, and the priest 
of Herakles or Dionysus to bear the clothing and attributes of 
those deities, to take their part indeed in the drama of the day, 
for Greek festivals commonly partook of the nature of dramas. 
They sometimes even bore the name of their deity • thus the 
priests of Dionysus bore the name Bacchus, and the priestesses 
of the Leucippides 4 were called also Leucippides. 

It would be a long task to detail all the titles borne by priests 
in the various temples of Greece, and the functions indicated 
by those titles which they exercised. We must, however, enter 
somewhat into the details of a few hierarchies of the more 
important sort, in order to make clearer the functions of the 

1 P. 159. 2 Pollux, vii. 85. 

s II. i. 15. 4 Paus. Hi. 16, 1. 


priesthood in Greece. We must, to begin with, rigidly dis- 
tinguish three classes of persons, all of whom held sacred office. 
The first class consisted of the priests and priestesses proper — 
those who represented the deity, and presided at the ceremonies 
in his honour. The second class comprised those persons, 
usually laymen of good birth, who performed some specific duty 
at a ceremony or a procession, under the control of the higher 
officers. The third class would include the mere temple- 
servants, usually slaves of the gods, who performed menial 
functions in the temples. 

Among the priests of higher rank were such as bore the 
title /2tt<riAei's as well as Upopvijpnav, Oecopo^ dp-^tOeaypos, (rre^xxv^- 
if)6pos, and the like, terms which describe in various inscrip- 
tions or on coins the eponymous magistrates of various states, 
but whose functions must certainly have been sacerdotal. The 
priest of Poseidon at Megara, and the eponymous priest of 
Byzantium, a Megarean colony, bore the title Hieromnemon. 
'UpoOvrrjs was the title of the chief priest at Agrigentum 
and Segesta. The Updpyat and UpcxpvXaKes were also persons 
of importance at various cities ; but they seem rather to have 
been concerned with the temple-buildings, and the material 
interests of sacred places, than with their ceremonies and 
ritual. The boy-priest of the Ismenian Apollo at Thebes was 
called 1 8a(f)vr)(f>6po$, because adorned with a wreath of laurel. 
A priest of Aphrodite in Cyprus was called dyrjrayp, because in 
festal processions he went before the sacrifices. The priestess 
who was at Athens charged with the decoration of the throne 
of the goddess was called Koa-pw. In some places priests 
were termed k^jSov^ol, because entrusted with the temple 
keys. The priestesses of Artemis at Ephesus were termed 
/xeAtWai, and the chief priest Megabyzus, which terms had 
reference to the oriental origin and customs of the Ephesian 
cult. The priestesses of the Leucippides at Sparta were, as we 
have already seen, called also Leucippides, and at Athens the 
names Butes and Buzyges were applied to the priests of those 

Among the lay assistants appointed for merely temporary 
purposes, we may name the 6ak\o(fi6poi of the Panathenaic 
procession, the girls selected annually to weave a new peplos 
for Athena, and the boy chosen at Olympia to cut the olive 
twigs for the wreaths of the victors in the games. There were 
numerous such ministers of both sexes in all Greek feasts and 

1 Taus. ix. io, 4. 


processions. That their children should be selected for these 
purposes was an honour coveted by parents, and one which 
shed a certain lustre over the whole life of the children them- 
selves. When adults were selected, it was to them like the 
conferment of an order or decoration. The qualifications re- 
quired were gentle blood and that nobleness of bearing which 
the Greeks supposed to go with it ; also reputation for virtue, 
especially the virtue of chastity. Children would usually not be 
eligible unless both their parents were living. Selection among 
eligible candidates was made by favour, beauty often counting 
for much. Thus at Tanagra, 1 at the festival of Hermes, an 
ephebus selected for beauty carried on his shoulders a lamb 
round the walls, thus personating Hermes himself : even the 
Thallophori of the Panathenaic procession were chosen for 
dignity of bearing. 

The subordinate ministers were in number countless. In 
imperial times even these functions were sought after by men 
of family and wealth, who were determined by any and every 
means to come before their fellow-citizens in a public capacity. 
Especially such were eager to be connected with the cultus of 
the reigning emperor. The common names for these inferior 
ministers were Slolkovol and vemKopot or (aKopot. They had to 
see to the service of the temples in its details, to keep order 
among the votaries, and to repair and keep clean the sacred 
edifices. Among them were such ministers as the £vkevs, who 
at Olympia brought wood for the sacrifices to Zeus ; Pausanias 
calls him one €k twv oik€tc3v tou Atos ; also the Ovrai, who 
actually struck down the victims at a sacrifice ; and the oivoyoot, 
who poured the wine which accompanied it. Of a somewhat 
superior character to these menials were the e^y^Tou, who were 
not indeed the repositaries of any particular doctrines, but who 
were a sort of masters of the ceremonies, and guides to show 
visitors over the temples, and point out to them what was note- 
worthy. It should, however, be observed that at some centres 
of religion the exegetae were priests and functionaries of im- 
portance ; at Athens, for instance, they were chosen from the 
noble class, and were concerned with sacerdotal discipline. The 
heralds, or KrjpvK^s, were persons of dignity in early times, but 
their office diminished in importance. Demosthenes 2 speaks of 
a herald as serving the /^ao-tAwro-a at Athens, and assisting her 
in her divine functions. They were men of loud voice, and 
were useful in making proclamation at sacrifices, as well as at 

1 Paus. ix. 22, I. 2 Adv. Neaer, par. 78. 


the games, sometimes proclaiming aloud prayers and vows. 
There were also among the crowd of persons supported by a 
great temple, singers and musicians, particularly flute-players, 
who accompanied among the Greeks every kind of measured 
movement. Hermann observes that all these vulgar personages 
were fed at the table of the priests, and that this is the origin 
of the later use of the term parasite. 

It is noteworthy that there were in Greece no such things 
as colleges for the training of priests or temple-servants. The 
local element prevailed in each cult to such a degree that a 
central college of theology or of religious practices would have 
been quite impossible. The very thing ordained at one seat 
of worship might be expressly forbidden at another, even when 
both spots belonged to the same Olympic deity. Tradition was 
the only possible teacher, and so jealously was it guarded and 
preserved that priests were rarely accused of having innovated in 
matters of cult, or failed in the honour due to their patron deities. 

The rewards and privileges which priests enjoyed in return 
for their labours in the service of the gods were neither few 
nor slight. Firstly, they had solid advantages in the way of 
shelter and food. They were commonly housed in the precinct, 
and shared the table of the gods. That is to say, they received 
and used the bloodless offerings, fruits and cakes and cheese, 
which were daily laid on the sacred table ; and of animals 
sacrificed they received a share. The inscription from Hali- 
carnassus l which offers for sale the post of priestess of Artemis, 
also describes the emoluments of the office. The priestess is 
to receive, in the case alike of public and private sacrifice, 
specified parts of the victim and his skin, in addition to which, 
at every new moon, when a public sacrifice is to be offered, she 
is to have a drachm, and to share certain proceeds of the 
sacrifice with the wives of the prytanes. At certain seasons 
she is to be allowed to take a sort of benefit — that is, to make 
a collection of money in the most crowded streets of the town. 
Sin- is also to establish a treasury for the goddess; but money 
which reaches that will not fall to her directly ; the chest is to 
be guarded by treasurers who are to open it once a year, and 
take out what is necessary for the service of the goddess, or, as 
we should put it, to defray incidental expenses. It is probable 
that usually private persons who came to make a sacrifice 
presented a fee to the officiating priests according to an under- 
stood tariff. At Athens several priests dined daily, in virtue of 

1 C. I. 2656. 


their office, at the public table in the Prytaneium, with magis- 
trates of the state and Olympic victors. And in the case of 
all the larger temples, the estate of the god, even setting aside 
daily and casual incomings, was quite sufficient to keep his 
priests in comfort and plenty. 

Of the remuneration of the priesthood in the temple of 
Apollo at Delos we know something from the very important 
inscriptions found in the island by the French expedition, and 
in course of publication by M. Homolle. 1 In these are recorded 
the salaries paid annually to the various temple-officers. It is, 
however, remarkable that, if M. Homolle's account be complete, 
there is no payment made either to the priests or to the 
neopoei, who, as we know, were the treasurers of the temple, 
and managed all its monetary affairs, nor even to the SiotK-qral 
who assisted in the collection of the revenues. In the last 
chapter I mentioned some of these salaries. Payments are 
recorded to a spring-keeper (Kp-qvo<f)v\a£), a palaestra-keeper, a 
herald, several flute-players, and a number of neocori of various 
grades. These are, evidently, only hired servants of the temple, 
except the architect, whose office was not religious ; and it 
would appear that the higher officers were either paid in some 
other way, or else above being paid at all. 

Thus it must be allowed that as a general rule the higher 
priests did not accept their office for the sake of the loaves 
and fishes which accompanied it. As above stated, they were 
usually taken from older and wealthier families ; and esteemed 
the honour of the post far more than its revenue. Homer speaks 
of a priest as honoured by the people as though a god ; and in 
all periods of Greek history this honour was consistently paid. 
When Alexander took Thebes he spared the houses of the 
priests amid the general destruction. Amid the frequent wars 
and social revolutions of Greece the priest had but to betake 
himself, with wife and children, to the temple of his deity, in 
order to be almost sure of safety and respect. The political 
power enjoyed by the priests was also considerable. As Sir C. 
Newton 2 has well pointed out, whenever a pestilence or mis- 
fortune smote a people, the priests were at once appealed to, 
to state what deity was offended, and how his wrath was to be 
appeased. This appeal might furnish an unscrupulous priest, 
not only with means for promoting his own interests and 
advancement, but also with an opportunity for getting rid of 
a rival, or modifying obnoxious institutions ; though, of course, a 

1 Bull, de Corr. Hell. 1882, p. 1. - Essays, p. 159. 


vigorous democracy might override any sacerdotal interference. 
As ;i rule, we find the democracies of Greece, as well as the 
tyrants and kings, as little disposed to interfere with or curtail 
the liberties and privileges of priests as the oligarchies them- 
selves. They furnished the rich with a career which did not 
lead to politicid disturbance ; and the proper discharge of these 
duties involved a considerable expenditure of private money on 
public purposes. 

We know from a host of honorary inscriptions what were 
considered the characteristics of a good priest, and how he was 
rewarded by the body politic for what they considered merit. 
In these documents priests and priestesses are praised indeed 
for piety, but it is usually for piety which takes the form of 
muni licence. Thus, in an inscription 1 from Aphrodisias in 
Caria, Gaea, who is priestess for life of Hera, is honoured and 
] >raised for the sumptuousness which she showed when on two 
occasions priestess of the Imperial House. She not only feasted 
the people at magnificent banquets, but supplied gratis for the 
baths various necessaries, and at the public games of Aphro- 
disias produced uK/ioa/zon-a or entertainments so new and choice 
that she attracted into the town the people of neighbouring 
cities. That she discharged her proper functions by sacrificing 
yearly for the prosperity of the Imperial House is stated 
indeed, but not enlarged on. Sumptuousness in sacrifice, 
feasting the people, providing spectacles, such are in most cases 
the merits selected for praise in inscriptions ; which, however, 
belong mostly to quite a late period of Greek history, Koman, 
or at earliest Macedonian, times. And the rewards conferred 
on these meritorious officials are of the same pompous and 
vainglorious kind — a wreath, a statue or an inscription set up 
in a public place, a not unworthy return for panis et circenses. 
Sometimes the reward takes a more appropriate form. In an 
inscription from Mantineia, 2 one Phsena, who has behaved 
liberally as priestess of Demeter, is formally invited to all 
future festivals of Demeter. The right of front seats at 
theatrical performances was also commonly accorded to priests. 
Of this the names found on the seats of the Athenian Theatre 
of Dionysus are sufficient proof; there the names of priests 
were mingled with those of magistrates in the place of honour ; 
this, however, was in the particular instance rather an honour 
bestowed on the priests of especial deities in their official 
capacity, than on individuals of merit. 

1 C. I. 2820. 2 Lebas-Foucart, Inscr. tic la Grtcc, No. 352 ft. 




In the case of Asia Minor, it seems almost certain that the 
dominant races, Lycians, Carians, Ionians and the like, were 
but small invading tribes, while the mass of the population of 
the country was of different, perhaps Semitic, stock. To these 
earlier inhabitants belongs the worship of Cybele and kindred 
nature-goddesses, as well as of Attis, Sabazius, and other deities 
of the orgiastic kind. It is extremely likely that we may find 
a parallel series of phenomena, which have hitherto almost 
escaped observation, in Greece and perhaps Italy. In Greece 
also it is likely that the true Aryan Greeks were always a 
comparatively small though dominant caste. Beneath them 
was a mass of population on which they imposed their language 
and their usages, but which retained in many ways the impress 
of a different temperament and a less finely endowed nature, 
and which often reacted upon the dominant tribes of purer 

However this may be, it is certain that in both Asia Minor 
and Greece proper there was a demand for a more ecstatic and 
emotional religion than that of the cultivated Hellenes. Of 
such religion we find, as Rohde 1 has clearly shown, scarcely any 
trace in the Homeric poems. The gods of Olympus are to the 
aristocracy of Homer anything but mystic; on the contrary, 
most anthropomorphic and orderly. The Homeric prophet 
Calchas is no inspired man, but one who has acquired skill to 
read the future in the flight of birds and other divine signs. 
But there no doubt existed in the Homeric age among the 
common people a religion of a less cultivated and more enthusi- 
astic character. Not only were there locally, as we have already 
seen, a multitude of curious observances and ancestral super- 
stitions ; but there were also enthusiasms not attached to the 
soil, but migratory over the whole of Greece, taking root in 
district after district, and city after city, and affording an outlet 
for those more irregular and unrestrained religious impulses 
which could scarcely find scope in the service of the regular 
deities of the cities. 

By far the most important of these safety-valves, if we 

1 In his Psyche. 


may so term them, of Greek religion was the Dionysiac cult. 
Although the germs of that cult existed in many places in the 
form of rustic superstitions and practices, yet it was probably 
after the Eomeric age that the orgiastic worship of Dionysus 
spread over all Greece, and furnished a more complete satis- 
faction to the untamed religious enthusiasms of the common 
people. Like the dance of death in mediaeval Europe, the 
Dionysiac fury passed from district to district of Greece, and 
thence into Italy. In all countries, women rather than men 
arc subject to the epidemics of religious enthusiasm. So in 
Greece and Italy it was the Maenads or Bacchee, women full 
of the Dionysiac passion, who nocked in swarms to the waste- 
places, and there gave way to those strange impulses of mixed 
asceticism and self-indulgence, of sensual excess and the desire 
of a purer life, which have in all countries marked such out- 
bursts. All through the great age of Greece the fever raged 
intermittently ; in the Hellenistic age other ecstatic cults, those 
of Mithras, of Cybele, and of Isis, became rivals of that of 
Dionysus in popular favour. 

We moderns find it hard to realise that the cultus of the 
God of Wine, in which naturally drinking to excess was a 
regular feature, could be anything but debasing and degrading. 
We are probably misled by the changed way in which alcoholic 
drinking is now regarded. Among us excessive indulgence in 
wine or spirits is a sottish and sensual habit, almost without 
higher elements. The place which wine held in the Bacchic 
cult, as a nervous stimulant, is partly taken in modern coun- 
tries by other stimulants; such as tobacco and tea. The weak 
and diluted wine of the ancients did not make them, as spirits 
make the Englishman, stupid and brutal, but raised the spirits, 
cleared the mind, and diminished for the time the pressure of 
the body. Hence Dionysus was regarded as the god who saved 
men from heavy sensuality, and set the soul free from its 
corporeal burden, from the prison of the flesh, as the Dionysiac 
Votaries phrased it. 

The Dionysiac worship exercised great influence in early 
times on Delphi, and at all times on the Mysteries of Eleusis, 
which were a mystic and orgiastic element in the compara- 
tive sobriety of the accepted Athenian religion. Nor must we 
forget that it was to the Dionysiac enthusiasm that we owe 
the origin both of tragedy and of comedy. 

Of the Dionysiac worship, the intellectual side was repre- 
sented by Orphism. To the imagination of the poets of later 
times, Orpheus was presented as a great poet of Thrace. To the 


Orphists he was far more — the man who had gone down alive 
to Hades in his search for his lost Eurydice, and had thence 
returned to instruct and raise mankind. Works professedly 
written by him, or other sages of the same kind, circulated 
largely in Greece, and supplied the people not only with a 
theogony, or account of the origin of the gods and the world, 
but also with precepts of ethics, with an eschatology, with 
something as near to a creed as the Greek mind was ready to 
accept. At one time the disciples of Pythagoras, who may 
be regarded as an exponent of Orphism, even constituted in 
Southern Italy something like a church ; and on Italian vases 
of a late date we find representations of Hades, the elements 
of which could have been supplied only by Orphism. 

Dionysus, though he never became one of the ordinary 
denizens of Olympus, yet was accepted by Athenian poetry 
and art, and in time to a great degree Hellenised. And as his 
cultus became more sober and respectable, it failed to satisfy 
the religious needs of the more enthusiastic of the lower people. 
Thus we find in later Greece a continuous invasion of deities 
who retained more of the orgiastic character, and whose cultus 
supplied that mixture of spiritual and sensuous excitement 
which has so strong an attraction for the mass of the 

Many of the Greek deities were originally borrowed from 
the pantheons of other nations — -Aphrodite, for instance, from 
that of Syria, Ares from that of Thrace ; but these deities had 
in historical times obtained, so to speak, full rights of citizenship 
among the Greeks. Their cultus was Hellenised, and being 
adopted by the governments of Greek republics, had become 
staid and moderate, and lost most traces of barbarous origin. 
But when the Greeks in historical times imported a strange 
deity from abroad and gave him a home among them, they 
often imported also the extravagances of cultus which sur- 
rounded him, and reproduced on Hellenic soil a fragment of 
Thracian or Phrygian manners. The persons attached to him 
formed what was called an e/xxvo? or Oiacros, that is, a private 
association, regularly organised on principles which we shall 
presently trace, to maintain his worship and propagate his 

Compared with the adherents of state religions, these 
associations may be called dissenting sects ; and like many 
sects in modern times, they made up for their want of status by 
their enthusiasm, and for the smallness of their numbers by 
their extravagances. We hear of them at Athens in the times 


of the Peloponnesian war. Eupolis in his Bd-n-Tac ridiculed the 
adherents of the Thracian Cotytto, 1 who conducted her worship 
witli nightly orgies and lascivious dances, and avIio seem from 
the very title of the play to have practised some oriental rite 
of immersion. In the Lyaittrata of Aristophanes mention is 
made of other strange deities, the Paphian Aphrodite, Sabazius, 
and Adonis. And Plutarch informs us 2 that at the time of 
the starting of the Athenian expedition for Sicily a feast of 
Adonis was being celebrated by the women of Athens with 
waitings and all the extravagances of oriental ritual. And 
Adonis was never one of the deities recognised by the state 
at Athens, but an importation from Syria and the object of 
the passionate devotion of a small clique. About B.C. 430, a 
Phrygian metragyrtes had incurred the displeasure of the more 
conservative citizens by initiating women in the mysteries of 
the Mother of the Gods, and was by them thrown into the 

Nevertheless these outlandish superstitions grew in favour. 
A passage in the De Corona 3 gives us full details as to the 
rites with which they were carried on. Demosthenes thus 
addresses /Eschines : " When 4 you became a man you assisted 
your mother in her initiations, reading the ritual and joining 
in the mummery : at night wrapping the votaries in fawn skin, 
swilling, purifying, and scouring them with clay and bran, 
raising them after the lustration, and bidding them say, ' Bad 
I have scaped, and better I have found ; ' priding yourself that 
no one ever howled so lustily — and I believe him ! for don't 
suppose that he who speaks so loud is not a splendid howler ! 
In the daytime you led your noble orgiasts, crowned with 
fennel and poplar, through the highways, squeezing the big- 
cheeked serpents, and lifting them over your head, and 
shouting Euoe Saboe, and capering to the words Hyes, Attes, 
Attes Hyes, saluted by the beldames as Leader, Conductor, 
Chest-bearer, Fan-bearer, and the like, getting as your reward 
tarts and biscuits and rolls ; for which any man might well 
bless himself and his fortune." 

We cannot assume that /Eschines did all that he is here 
accused of ; but we may safely conclude that the description of 
the ritual in which he shared is fairly exact. The deity thus 
adored would seem to have been the Phrygian Sabazius, the 

1 Cf. Juvenal, Satir. ii. 92. 

2 Alcib. 18. 3 Pp. 259-60. 

4 Translation of C. R. Kennedy (slightly altered), p. 94. 

2 1 6 CULTUS 

chthonic Dionysus, who was torn to pieces by enemies and 
restored to life again. In his worship we find all the accom- 
paniments of Phrygian worship : the nightly orgies, the frantic 
dances, the introduction of serpents among the initiated, the 
purification by water, the loud and discordant howlings, and 
the repetitions in mummery of mythologic legends of no 
elevating or even decent character. We can scarcely be sur- 
prised to learn that at an earlier time the Athenians had put 
to death the priestess Ninos for celebrating the mysteries of 
Sabazius. Phryne also, the noted courtesan, was near losing her 
life for attempting to introduce at Athens the cultus of another 
deity of the same class, called by Hyperides 1 Isodaites. 

But it was in Macedonian times that such religious cults 
obtained the widest acceptance in Greece. We may easily 
account for this fact by the increased intercourse with Asia, 
the number of foreigners who came to live in Greek cities, 
and further, the decay of the national religion, which left the 
minds of the people open to all sorts of irregular enthusiasms. 
At Athens the bulk of these worships had, as we might expect, 
their headquarters in the Pirseus, among the marts of trade. 
Of one sect, who called themselves the opyewves, and who were 
attached to the worship of the Mother of the Gods, we have 
considerable lapidary remains, which enlighten us as to the 
character of their organisation and cultus. 

Greek religion was essentially a thing of cities, tribes, and 
families. According to the ideas of the people, nothing could 
be more unpleasing to the regularly constituted deities than 
to be approached in an irregular way or by improper people, 
strangers or slaves. Dorians were not allowed even to enter 
the temple of Athena Polias at Athens; but the erani were 
open to all who chose to join them, and the bulk of their 
members were freedmen, strangers, slaves, and women, who 
often indeed rose to the highest posts in them, becoming priests 
and secretaries. Two conditions alone had to be complied with 
by candidates for admission : they had to pay a subscription 
or fee, and they had to undergo some kind of test, Sok i/xacrta. 
This test was conducted by the officers of the society, and its 
object was to ascertain whether the proposed member was 
ayvos, evcre/Srjs, and dyaOos. But the goodness and purity 
required were scarcely of a moral kind, rather merely conven- 
tional and ceremonial. To the members were distributed sacred 
emblems or tessarse, which they secretly carried as amulets. 

1 Ap. Harpocration. 


Something must be said as to the organisation of the erani 
and thiasi of foreign deities which existed in later Greece. We 
can now recover knowledge on these matters from a variety 
of inscriptions found in Attica, and carefully brought together 
and analysed by M. P. Foucart, in his Associations religieuses 
chez les Grecs, an excellent work. The affairs of these societies 
were regulated by fixed laws and traditions, to which they 
adhered with persistency. Such matters as the conditions of 
membership, the amount of contribution, the times of assembly, 
the employment of the revenues were strictly laid down and 
engraved on tables of stone, as well as the nature of the rewards 
to be bestowed on praiseworthy officials, and punishments re- 
served for defaulting members. The ritual was preserved in 
sacred books, which were carefully treasured by the officials and 
probably accessible to them alone. But within this written 
law there was a regular democratic organisation. The kolvov, 
or body of members, met regularly and passed decrees, in form 
similar to those passed by cities in their assemblies, decrees 
which were binding on all members. The Orgeones of the 
Piraeus met every month, probably in a sacred place or refxevos 
set apart for the purpose. Women and men were alike present ; 
all voted, and any could speak who pleased. Resolutions were 
submitted in writing, and if there was nothing in them opposed 
to the law of the society, might be carried. And as in the 
case of cities, a decree passed was engraved on a tablet and set 
up in some appropriate place where it could be seen by all con- 
cerned. The magistrates were annually elected, and they too, 
like civic magistrates, had to take an oath on assuming office, 
and to give an account of their behaviour on resigning it. But 
even while in authority they were anything but despots ; and if 
a matter of any importance came up for decision as to which 
the religious books were silent, it would be settled by a decree 
of the assembly. 

We are acquainted with the titles and functions of the 
officials elected by the Orgeones of the Piraeus. They had a 
priest and priestess, of whom the former received the skins of 
male animals offered in sacrifice, the latter those of female 
animals. But the priestess was, as we might expect in the 
case of a cultus imported from Phrvgia, by far the more im- 
portant personage : she ruled in the temple, opened it on set 
days, and regulated the behaviour and even the dress of those 
women who took part in processions. The mysteries and the 
feast of Atys, the Phrygian favourite of the goddess, were under 
her control, and it required in her no little tact to keep in good 


humour all the votaries. The ex-priestesses formed a sort of 
sacred college or council, and from among them were chosen 
the {aKopos, Avho was the assistant of the priestess, and was 
usually appointed for a single year, though we hear of one 
zacoros, Metrodora, 1 who was exceptionally appointed for life. 
Besides these functionaries, we hear of UpoTrotot, who conducted 
the sacrifices and collected fees in connection with them ; €7rt- 
fieX-qrai, who sometimes undertook the carrying out of decrees 
of the assembly, in particular of honorary decrees ; a treasurer, 
ra/xias, who was naturally chosen from among the wealthy; 
and a secretary, ypap^arevs. 

Many of the erani were of course not organised with anything 
like so much completeness. For instance, we have a curious 
inscription found near the mines of Laurium, which records 
a somewhat bold pretension of a slave who worked in them : 
" I, Xanthus 2 the Lycian, slave of Caius Orbius, established a 
temple of Men Tyrannus (a Phrygian moon-god) by the direc- 
tion of the god himself. No one is to enter unpurified ; " and 
he proceeds to declare on what terms the god will dispense his 
favours to the erani stse, and in what manner he is to be ap- 
proached. There is something almost sublime in such preten- 
sions on the part of a slave of the mines. And this slave, 
having no funds for the purchase of a sacred place or the 
erection of a shrine, occupies a deserted tomb or heroon, and 
there sets up the graven tables which contain the regulations 
of the worship of which he is the self-constituted priest. 

This cult of Men at Laurium is of late date, however, and 
exceptional character ; usually we find a more regular constitu- 
tion. Commonly the general control was vested in some such 
officer as an dpyi6iacriTri<$ or an dp-xepavicrT-qs or Trpoa-rdrt^, 
with priest, Upo7roiot, a treasurer, and other officers. We read 
of one diacros at Piraeus which paid its secretary ; but in the 
great majority of cases the officers were unpaid. But the 
organisation of different societies varied greatly, and the only 
general rules seem to be these: 3 (i) there was no hierarchy 
among officers ; all are annual, all independent one of another, 
and responsible directly to the assembly ; (2) there is no distinc- 
tion of civil and religious functions. The same man may be 
treasurer and priest of a thiasus. 

The rewards bestowed on officers by the assembly were such 
as were customary in civic matters — an encomium, a wreath, a 
portrait ; sometimes also a dedication was made in their name 

1 Foucart, p. 24. 2 Foucart, p. 219. 3 Foucart, p. 23- 


to the deity. The extreme punishment was expulsion from the 
society. Short of this was the levying of a line on the offender ; 
and such fine was legally recoverable at Athens. 

We come next to the question of the legal status of the erani 
of foreign deities. At Athens law aided them through en- 
forcing their fines. Freedom of association was fully conceded 
at Athens, and the corporation when formed could hold property 
like an individual, and could prosecute defaulting members. 
The law of Solon is explicit in this matter, stating that what- 
ever agreements are entered into by club or phratria or eranos 
are to be enforced, Kvpiov etvat, unless they contravene the laws 
of the state. This exception is, however, important, for the 
Athenians, although they accorded full rights of association to 
all citizens, yet severely punished the unlicensed introduction 
of strange deities into their city. Foreign sojourners at Athens 
were of course not expected to give up their own deities nor 
to adopt those of the Athenians, for ancient religion was tribal, 
and no Greek city wished to proselytise. But just as the city 
had the right to expel strange men, so it had the right to expel 
strange deities from its coasts. Thus a decree of the Senate 
and the people was necessary in order to grant permission for 
the erection of a temple to a deity previously unrepresented. 
The Athenians usually made no difficulty in acceding to the 
request of resident foreigners when they asked to be allowed to 
erect a shrine to their native deity. In B.C. 333 the Citians 
were allowed to erect a shrine to the Syrian Aphrodite ; and at 
that time there already existed a temple of Isis, founded by the 
Egyptians of Athens. But on the other hand the law was 
extremely severe on those who attempted, without legal per- 
mission, to introduce the worship of strange gods, more especially 
if the person so offending were a citizen. The testimony of 
Josephus on this point is explicit. 1 "The Athenians put to 
death the priestess Ninos on the accusation that she initiated 
into the worship of strange gods: the Athenian laws forbade 
this, and death was the penalty for introducing a strange god." 
In the case of Socrates also, as is well known, a chief point in 
the charge on which he was capitally condemned was that he 
had introduced new deities. And there is another well-known 
story as to Phryne, that she was accused by Euthias of intro- 
ducing strange deities into Athens, and would have been 
condemned to death but for the stratagem of her defender, the 
orator Hyperides, who tore aside her garment and displayed to 

1 Joseph. Adv. Apion, ii. 37. 

2 20 CULTUS 

the jurors the beauty of her breast, on which they acquitted 
her. It seems certain, therefore, in spite of the opinion of 
Schbmann, who maintains an opposite view, that death was the 
penalty for unauthorised introduction of barbarian deities into 
Athens. For the introduction of Hellenic deities obviously no 
license was required, nor could piety of that kind be made 
into a crime. 

As to the tendency of these cults and their moral bearing, 
various opinions have been held. Some writers, such as M. 
Wescher, 1 are inclined to see in them much of good, regarding 
them as a revolt against the deadness of the outworn Hellenic 
religion, and the beginning of a wider and higher religious life. 
Others, such as M. Foucart, will allow but little to be said in 
their favour. We must briefly examine the evidence. First, 
then, it has been maintained that the thiasi acted as benefit- 
clubs. But the evidence for this is not forthcoming. The 
society of Orgeons of the Piraeus seem to have buried dead 
members, but this function was performed towards rich and 
poor alike, and seems to have arisen from religious rather than 
social motives. There is no record in the inscriptions of any 
aid offered to poor or unfortunate members ; and it would seem 
that an equal subscription was exacted from all. There was 
thus nothing in thiasi to make them a boon to the poor. There 
were civil erani which did lend money to members, advanced a 
ransom to redeem those captured by pirates, and so forth ; but 
there is nothing to prove that purely religious erani performed 
these functions. Seco ndly, there does seem, at first sight, 
something in the regulations of these irregular religious societies 
of striving after purity and a better life. The votaries tended 
by iEschines repeated, " Worse have I scaped, and better have 
I found ; " and it is usually laid down in the regulations that all 
who take part in the religious ceremonies must be xadapot and 
ay vol. But we must be careful not to put too much of modern 
meaning into these phrases. They do not refer to moral but 
to ceremonial and outward purity ; they do not mean that the 
votary must regulate his actions and feelings by a high standard ; 
but that he must have cleansed himself in specified ways from 
certain acts recognised as impure, such as touching a corpse or 
eating onions. That real purity of heart was acceptable to the 
gods is a doctrine which always existed among the more 
intelligent of the Greeks, but was never taken in by the lower 
classes, and especially the slaves, who constituted the majority 

1 Revue ArclUologique, 1864 and 1865. 


of members of these societies. Again, the religious fervour of 
the sectaries has been contrasted with the dulness and weak- 
ness of more staid cults ; and, no doubt, in the later days of 
Greece, the old Greek religion was in a most decrepit state, and 
real belief had almost departed from it. But at the same time 
the way in which the votaries of Phrygian and Thracian deities 
displayed their devotion was anything but attractive. Frantic 
cries and wild dances, and scenes of not too chaste a character, 
were the routine of their service ; and the priests devoted them- 
selves to the foretelling of the future, the curing of diseases, 
and the administration of philtres, arts far more lucrative 
than respectable, and worked themselves up into the wild 
frenzies which impressed the minds of the common people, but 
which had in them far more of sensuous than of spiritual 

The opinion of the wiser among the ancients was altogether 
against outlandish cults. I have already stated what view of 
them was taken by the state. In the Lysistrata, Aristophanes 
depicts what he supposes to be their results on the women. 
Their chief patronesses were Hetserae, such as Phryne, and 
Aristion Menander and Theophrastus direct against them the 
keenest shafts of their polished wit. The best of the later 
Greek writers are on the side of Plutarch when he writes, 
" Superstition inspires ludicrous feelings and deeds, words and 
movements, enchantments, magic ceremonies, processions to 
the sound of the drum, cleansings unclean, and purifications 
impure, scourgings and tramplings in the mire in the temples 
illegal and barbarous." 1 

Their barbarism is precisely that on which M. Foucart most 
dwells, and that which will strike a modern reader conversant 
with the works of Herbert Spencer and Tylor. Among all 
barbarous tribes we find mystic ceremonies, religious mania, 
the custom of producing passionate excitement, and ascribing 
to men in that condition superhuman powers, and a nearer 
approach to the deities. We should expect to find such prac- 
tices in connection with the religions of Thrace and Phrygia, 
and they were thence imported unchanged into Greece. No 
doubt barbarous religion spread in Greece, because there, as in 
most countries, there was a lower stratum which was barbarous. 
The mobs of Greek cities, says M. Foucart, were never raised to 
the level of what was best in Greek religion, and were always 
sliding back to what was worse, and they found in extravagant 

1 De Supcrst. 12. 

2 2 2 CULTUS 

rites and furious excitement something to stir their dull sus- 
ceptibilities, and satisfy their coarse spiritual appetites. 

And yet it is impossible to maintain so harsh a judgment 
when we reflect that in several respects the thiasi were pre- 
cursors of Christianity and opened the door by which it 
entered. If they belonged to a lower intellectual level than 
the best religion of Greece, and were full of vulgarity and 
imposture, they yet had in them certain elements of progress, 
and had something in common with the future as well as the 
past history of mankind. All properly Hellenic religion was 
a tribal thing, belonged to the state and the race, did not 
proselytise, nor even admit foreign converts ; and so when the 
barriers which divided cities were pulled down it sank and 
decayed. The cultus of Sabazius or of Cybele was, at least, 
not tribal : it sought converts among all ranks, and having 
found them, placed them on a level before the god. Slaves 
and women were admitted to membership and to office. The 
idea of a common humanity, scarcely admitted by Greek 
philosophers before the age of the Stoics, found a hold among 
these despised sectaries, who learned to believe that men of 
low birth and foreign extraction might be in divine matters 
superior to the wealthy and the educated. In return for this 
great lesson we may pardon them much folly and much 



Nothing is better calculated to impress upon us the difference 
between ancient and modern religion than a comparison of our 
Christian rituals with those of ancient Greece. Exhortations 
wherein the doctrines of the religion are proclaimed, and the 
hearers incited to the leading of a better life, those sermons 
which, especially in Protestant churches, are so prominent in 
religious service, had no counterpart in ancient ritual : the 
prayers and the hymns which make up the chief part of our 
services were far less developed among the Greeks. We shall 
presently set forth in order the little information on these 
subjects which ancient writers have thought it worth while to 
give us, or which has been preserved in inscriptions. On the 
other hand the act of sacrifice, which was the main and essential 
feature of ancient religious services, exists only in idealised 


form in modern days, and tends among Protestants almost, 
entirely to disappear. As to times of worship we find the 
same contrast. Except at the great festivals, when all the city 
turned out to watch the processions and ceremonies, the people 
worshipped in families and septs as occasion arose, or as indi- 
viduals constantly frequented the shrine of the special deities 
whom they supposed to have taken their lives in charge. 

It is a significant fact that the Greeks had no word appro- 
priated to the meaning of "prayer:" evxit which usually does 
duty for it, means also vow, or merely wish, or even curse. Yet 
in one sense it is more distinctive than our term prayer, since 
it does not include thanks for past but only hopes for future 
favours. Prayers of some kind must, it seems certain, have 
formed part of every sacrificial ceremony, and we are the more 
surprised that the information we have about them is so slight. 
Of course there was no elaborate ritual at any Greek temple, 
and the form of prayer if fixed was very simple. It was pre- 
served in the memory of the priests, or if committed to writing, 
written only in the sacred books, which were sedulously hidden 
away. Before any prayer there was the customary Greek 
requisite of purification : Penelope, before praying to Athena, 
washes her person and puts on clean garments. 1 Of course at 
sacrifices this condition was already complied with. Slavish 
prostrations were by the Greeks deemed degrading to man and 
unacceptable to the gods : the suppliant stood merely with face 
and hands upraised to heaven when he called on the dwellers 
therein. In addressing the deities of the sea, he might merely 
stretch his arms towards the waters, as Achilles does when he 
calls on his mother Thetis. And when the beings addressed 
were those of the nether world, the suppliant would stretch his 
hands downwards and strike the earth with his foot to attract 
the attention of those below. 

Very commonly at sacrifice and in prayer all the deities were 
invoked in common, or a list of them recited, beginning with 
Kestia. In Homer the three greatest deities, Zeus, Athena, 
and Apollo are addressed together on some occasions. If one 
deity alone were invoked, it was a matter of ordinary piety to 
add to the mention of his name some description, including any 
i 'titer designation which he might be supposed to prefer. " Zeus, 
whoever he be, if this will please his ears, thus I address him," 
exclaims the chorus in the Agamemnon ; 2 and it was customary 
to add some such phrase as " whatever name pleases thee best." 

1 Od. iv. 750. > L. j 55. 

2 24 CULTUS 

The reason of this lies somewhat deep in the ideas of nations of 
undeveloped civilisation. With such, the name is a sort of clue 
to personality ; nor would it be easy more thoroughly to offend 
a barbarous chief than by addressing him by a name of which 
he disapproved. In the mysteries various deities were called 
upon by secret names, the mere utterance of which by the 
votaries put them at once on a footing of intimacy with the 
god. And the several titles which Apollo, Zeus, Artemis and 
other deities held at the various spots devoted to them were 
regarded as essential to the local cult. 

The more pious of the Greeks began no enterprise without 
prayer. "All men," says Plato, 1 "who have any decency, in 
the attempting of matters great or small, always invoke divine 
aid." Ischomachus, in Xenophon's CEconomica, before he sets 
about the training of his wife, offers a sacrifice and a prayer 
that his instructions may be good for both husband and wife. 
Hesiod 2 recommends sacrifice and libation night and morning, 
and Plato considers it natural to utter a prayer at the rising 
and setting of the sun and the moon. The libations which 
accompanied every meal were with many the occasion of prayer, 
though more often they may be supposed to have taken its 
place. Nor did an assembly meet in Greece, nor an army take 
the field or enter into battle, nor was a peace or treaty concluded 
without sacrifice and prayers, the latter commonly recited in a 
loud voice by an attendant herald. The Greeks had a prejudice 
against prayer uttered in a low voice. Whether it was that 
they supposed a prayer loudly uttered to go more certainly to 
its destination, or whether they suspected those who prayed low 
to be uttering things unfit to be heard, we cannot say : both 
reasons may have carried weight. Certain it is that there was 
among the Pythagoreans a rule that all prayers should be uttered 
aloud. Only in the presence of the enemy, for evident reasons, 
an opposite rule prevailed : Ajax in Homer begs the Achseans 
to utter silently their prayers for his safety in his combat with 
Hector, lest the Trojans overhear. A greater efficacy was lent 
to a supplication when the petitioner could touch or kiss a 
statue of his deity (bronze statues were sometimes quite worn 
down with kissing), or held in his hand something belonging to 
that deity, a fillet, a twig of a sacred tree, or a sacrificial vessel. 
Sometimes the petition was not uttered at all, but written on a 
tablet and affixed to the statue of a deity or laid on his knees. 

1 Timaeus, p. 27c. The words are given to Timaeus. 

2 Works and Days, 1. 339. 

TEmPlE-RItUAL 22 § 

The Cheek usually prayed for certain things which he 
wanted and which he hoped to get through divine aid : hut 
of course the more refined natures coveted nobler things. 
The first prayer which comes before us in Greek literature 1 
is that of the priest Chryses to Apollo, begging for vengeance 
on the Greeks who have carried off his daughter. " If ever 
1 built a temple gracious in thine eyes, or if ever I burnt 
to thee fat flesh of thighs of bulls or goats, fulfil thou this 
my desire : let the Danaans pay by thine arrows for my 
tears S " The prayers of the ordinary citizens were naturally 
for health, riches, and advancement. " Who," says Cicero, 2 
M ever thanked the gods that he was a good man 1 — men are 
thankful for riches, honour, safety. These are the things they 
beg of sovereign Jupiter, not what makes us just, temperate, 
wise, but what makes us safe, sound, rich, and prosperous." 
There is a higher and more manly note in the prayer of 
Xcnophon, 3 which asks of the gods health and strength of 
body, and honour in the city, goodwill in friends, in war 
safety with honour, and wealth which grows by fair means. 
This probably is as high as the ideas of a well-born and well- 
bred Greek would ordinarily rise : if we wish for anything 
nobler we must turn to the writings of the philosophers. 
Socrates in Xenophon prays for the good merely, leaving it 
to the gods to fix what was good. 4 In Plato's dialogues he 
is represented as agreeing with the poet, who begs Zeus to 
grant him what is good whether he asks or not, and to keep 
from him the evil even if he asks it. 5 But prayers like these 
have their place in works which deal with the history of 
philosophy rather than in a work dealing with Greek an- 
tiquities. They were not part of any ritual, but the aspira- 
tions of a sublime nature. More to the point, because it 
may have been recited at religious ceremonies, is the petition 
quoted with admiration by Marcus Aurelius, "Rain, rain, 
dear Zeus, on the fields of the Athenians and the plains." 
u In truth," adds the Emperor, "we ought not to pray at all, 
oj we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion." 

A prayer appropriated by a temple and worked into its 
services would naturally fall into metre, that it might more 
easily be retained in the memory and preserve' its exact form. 
All ancient and traditional prayers seem to have been metrical. 

1 77. i. 40, Mr. Leaf's translation. 2 Dc Nat. Dcor. ii. 36. 

3 (Econ. xi. 8. 4 Xenoph. Manor, i. 3, 2. 

6 Alcib. Secund. p. 143a. 

2 26 CtTLTUS 

They may thus be considered as hymns, whether they were 
merely recited or whether they were accompanied by the lyre 
and by dances. The more elaborate hymns, such as those 
which passed in antiquity under the name of Homer, and 
those of Stesichorus, Pindar, and other poets, belong not to 
the ordinary services of temples, but altogether to religious 
festivals. The choruses of the tragedians frequently contain 
hymns to the gods ; but they cannot in any sense be said to 
belong to ritual. But there were hymns in more ordinary use. 
Indeed, we possess an inscription 1 from Stratonicea in Caria 
in which the hymns of daily service, and those belonging 
to festivals are expressly distinguished. It is there ordered 
that thirty boys of good family shall be selected and retained 
as a choir of Zeus Panamerius and Hecate, and shall be 
brought daily into the senate-house under the charge of the 
paedonomus, there to sing, clad in white and crowned with 
flowers, an ode in honour of these two deities. A separate 
chorus is to be selected for the annual hymn ordered by ancient 
custom. Comparatively few of these liturgical hymns have 
come down to us, and those which survive are of a frigid 
kind. The hymn of Ariphron to Hygieia, which is preserved 
to us both in an inscription and in the text of Athenaeus, 2 
is a fair specimen. Hymns like the noble appeal of Cleanthes 
to Zeus clearly do not come under this head. 

Our knowledge of ancient hymns has been notably enlarged 
by the results of recent French excavations at Delphi. 3 Among 
the inscriptions thus recovered is a paean written for the god 
by Aristonous of Corinth, and fragments of a hymn containing 
triumphant allusions to the destruction of the Gauls at Delphi 
in B.C. 278, soon after which date the hymn was probably 
written. Neither of these compositions possesses much literary 
merit; but to the second attaches extraordinary interest, be- 
cause it is set to music which is inscribed on the marble, 
and has been in part recovered. It is the first satisfactory 
evidence which has reached us as to the character of Greek 
music, which naturally cannot compare with that of modern 
days in science or elaboration, but yet possesses a certain 

In judging it we must remember that with the Greeks 
music was wholly subordinate to poetry, and that as an art 
it was cultivated neither for intellectual pleasure nor for 

1 C. I. 2715. 2 C. I. 511 ; Athen. xv. 702a, 

3 Bulletin de Corresp. Helienique, 1893. 


sensuous gratification, but with an ethical purpose. Anything 
which corrupted its simplicity was condemned; and the more 
conservative of the Greeks resisted even the raising of the 
number of strings in the lyre to seven. In fact the essentially 
rhetorical character which belongs to all Greek literature and 
poetry, and even to the plastic art of antiquity, is even more 
conspicuous in ancient music. 

The words of these Apolline hymns, though of inferior 
literary merit, resemble the appeals to the gods which so 
frequently burst forth in the choral passages of the plays of 
the great Attic tragedians, and bring vividly before us the fact 
that these dramatic performances were a part of the service 
of the gods, and that an appeal to them in the theatre of 
Athens was as much in place as if uttered at Delphi or 
Olympia. The theatre and the church with us lie far apart ; 
but it was not so among the Greeks, nor among our own 
ancestors in the middle ages. 

We have next to speak of what may be termed the special 
services of Greek religion, as opposed to the daily routine of 
prayer and sacrifice. These special services comprise not only 
the great festivals which occupied a great part of the year in 
all Greek cities, but also religious ceremonies gone through with 
a special object, such as curses and oaths, and the purifications 
which both persons and places had frequently to undergo. 

It may sound strange to speak of curses or imprecations as 
religious ceremonies ; but they were such in Greece, and of 
great value to the commonwealth. A curse was a sort of in- 
verted prayer, implying belief in the gods and an approach to 
them ; only, that which was asked of them was not good, but 
evil. Fortunately the evil was asked in a mere hypothetical 
way in most cases : the curse was directed not against some 
particular person, but against any one who should in future 
violate particular ordinances. There are many rules of morality 
which are among nations of imperfect civilisation scarcely to be 
enforced by legal penalties ; such rules the Greeks frequently 
placed under the protection of the deities, solemnly beseeching 
them to see to their enforcement, and to punish all trans- 
gressors. If the offence was sacrilege against a particular deity, 
that deity naturally was expected to be active in his own 
cause ; in other cases either the gods in general were invoked, 
or frequently Hades and Persephone, or the Erinnyes to whom 
the severe punishment of mortals naturally belonged. The 
priests of Zeus, called Buzygae, at Athens, in their litany invoked 
curses against those who refused to show the way to strangers, 

2 28 CULTTS 

refused aid in kindling fire, polluted fresh water, slew a plough- 
ing ox, or left a corpse unburied. 1 In the constitution of 
Solon 2 it was ordained that the archon every year should, 
under a penalty of ioo drachms, proclaim a curse against 
those who violated the law against export of produce, from 
which law, only oil was exempt. AVe still possess an inscrip- 
tion from Teos 3 which denounces bitter curses against those 
who transgress the ordinances there set forth. If any disobey 
the magistrates of Teos, or if any of the magistrates unjustly 
put a citizen to death, or if any person prepares poisonous 
draughts for any Teian, or prevents the import of corn, he and 
all his race are devoted to destruction ; not clearly by the laws 
of the state, for in no Greek republic could laws so severe 
exist, but by the laws of the deities who watched over the 
commonwealth. In many state documents, treaties, and the 
like, where human law cannot be invoked to punish trans- 
gression, such clauses are inserted. 

A good specimen of the curse with political intent is that 
recorded by ^-Eschines i as pronounced by the Ampliations 
against those who should attempt to violate their decree which 
condemned to barrenness the lands of Cirrha. " If any trans- 
gress this decree, whether city, tribe, or person, let him or them 
be accursed in the name of Apollo, Artemis, Leto, and Athena 
Proncea. May their land bear no fruit, and their wives bear 
not children like their parents, but monsters ; and their cattle 
not breed according to their wont. And may they have the 
worser part in war and law and trade, and themselves perish, 
and their house and race ; and may they never bring accep- 
table sacrifice to Apollo, or Artemis, or Leto, or Athena Proncea ; 
but may their offerings be rejected." 

On tombstones of later period, no inscription is more common 
than that which invokes a curse on those who interfere with 
the dead man or his resting-place. An Attic epitaph 5 begins, 
" I commit this tomb to the chthonic deities to guard, to Pluto 
and Persephone and the Erinnyes, and all the nether gods," 
and proceeds to implore these beings to afflict any person who 
molests or injures the tomb, with fever and ague and other 
painful diseases. 

But curses were not all of this speculative and future kind. 
In the Iliad 6 Phoenix relates how, when he had injured his 

1 Cf. Diphilus, in Athen. vi. 35. 2 Plutarch, Solon, chap. 24. 

3 C. I. 3044. * In Ctesiph. no. 

5 No. 2579 in the Corpus of Kumanudes. 6 ix. 454. 


father Aniyntor, the latter uttered a deep curse, calling on 
the hateful Erinnyes, and how the nether Zeus (Hades) and 
Persephone brought it to pass. Plutarch, in his life of Alci- 
biades, gives an account of the curse pronounced on that 
general at Athens, after he had by flight escaped from the 
hands of the law, on hearing the result of the trial held in 
his absence. All the priests and priestesses at evening pro- 
nounced against him a solemn malediction, shaking in the 
air a red cloth. The time of day and the colour of the cloth 
were both symbolical of the death to which they devoted him. 
Not long after, however, we find that when Alcibiades returned 
in triumph to Athens, the Euniolpidae and the heralds Avith- 
drew all the curses which they had pronounced against him, 
by command of the people. At Cnidus, Sir C. Newton found 
in a precinct dedicated to Pluto, Demeter, Persephone, and 
the lower deities generally, a number of leaden tablets on 
which were graven imprecations. The person against whom 
the curse was directed, was in these documents consigned to the 
vengeance of the two great goddesses. The usual formula is, 
" May he or she never find Persephone propitious," a curse 
the bearing of which reaches beyond the bounds of the present 
life into that beyond. The offences which brought down 
these terrible curses seem in magnitude scarcely proportioned 
to the punishment. "One lady denounces the person who has 
stolen her bracelet, or who has omitted to return her under- 
garments. Another has had her husband's affections stolen 
from her ; and one much-injured wife invokes curses on the 
person who accused her of having tried to poison her husband." l 
On a leaden tablet found in an Athenian tomb, 2 Hermes and 
Ge are begged to punish certain persons there named. Some- 
times the imprecation is made in a less direct way, as when 
plated coins were dedicated in temples, in all probability to 
rouse the anger of the gods against the unknown forger. We 
have a very curious form of imprecation from the temple 
of Hera Lacinia. 3 A woman presents to the goddess three 
gold coins which " Melita has borrowed and not returned." 
The coins were not bodily presented, but they became the 
property of the goddess, and by the fact of dedication, Melita 
became indebted to her, and liable to pay the money twelve- 
fold to the temple, together with a measure of incense. 

In dealing with imprecations, we are clearly very near the 
border-line which divides religion from sorcery. Prayers, 

1 C. T. Newton, Essays, p. 193. - C. I. 539. 3 C. I. 5773. 


oaths, and curses all gradually rose from the level of barbarous 
to that of Hellenic religion j and those of the people who 
Avere at a lower stage of culture, kept up in these matters the 
traditions of barbarism. The priest and the wizard are alike 
descended from the ancient medicine-man, the one representing 
the higher level attained by the race, the other keeping on 
the old level or sinking below it. In all periods of Greek 
history, the magicians and witches who dealt in charms, in- 
cantations, and exorcisms, drove a thriving trade by nattering 
the follies, and trading on the weaknesses of the many. 

Oaths are closely connected with imprecations, are indeed 
only a variety of them. He who binds himself by an oath, 
invokes on himself the vengeance of some deity or deities, 
unless he perforins his promise. It is true that oaths were 
not always made in that form ; the father may swear by his 
children, the king by his sceptre, the warrior by his sword. 
The disguised Odysseus 1 swears by the hospitable table and 
hearth of his home. But in these cases the meaning is the 
same. The swearer invokes here, too, in case of perjury, 
injury on the thing whereby he swears — that the children 
may perish, the sceptre be disobeyed, the sword break in the 
battle. No doubt in common use, oaths not directly intro- 
ducing the names of deities, came to be regarded as mere 
strong asseverations. And for this reason, when an oath was 
seriously taken, its meaning was carefully made clear. In the 
Iliad, Agamemnon swears by Zeus, Helios, Gs&a, and the 
Erinnyes, and sometimes includes the rivers and the nether 
deities. The Homeric gods swear, as is well known, by the 
river Styx. Solon ordered oaths to be taken by Hicesius, 
Catharsius, and Exacesterius, which names we must take as 
titles or appellations of Zeus, rather than as names of separate 
deities. The Athenian Heliasts swore by Apollo Patrons, 
Demeter, and Zeus. At Sparta they mostly swore by the 
Dioscuri ; at Orchomenus, in Bceotia, by Alalcomenia Thel- 
xinia and Aulis. So in most cities or districts there was 
some deity or daemon who was supposed especially fatal to 
perjurers. Very frequently oaths were made by the nether 
deities, to whom the punishment of men naturally belonged, 
and sometimes by Horcus (opKos) himself, who was personified 
as a son of Zeus. 

Such were serious oaths. Among the Greeks, as among 
ourselves, were others of lighter character — expressions which 

1 Od. xiv. 159. 


had the form of oaths without the meaning. The common 
oath by Herakles probably had little meaning, Herakles not 
being very seriously taken. Socrates swears by the dog 
and by a plane-tree, Lampo by the goose. Indeed, playful 
expressions like these savoured of no impiety — rather, on the 
contrary, of piety, since by using them men avoided light use 
of the names of deities. 

Oaths were so far regarded as religious that they were 
commonly taken in temples and accompanied by special service 
and sacrifice. The lakes of the Palici in Sicily were much 
resorted to by those who took oaths, and the vengeance of 
the deities was said to be so swift against perjurers that 
they left the shrine sightless. In Corinth the most binding 
oaths were taken in the underground building where Avas the 
tomb of Palsemon or Melicertes ; and at Pheneus, in Arcadia, 
there was a place called petroma, by the temple of the chthonian 
Demeter, where the greatest oaths were taken. In almost all 
cases the temples set apart for the taking of oaths were of the 
nether deities. Justin l tells us how Ptolemy Ceraunus, wishing 
to get into his power his sister Arsinoe, swore a great oath that 
he would share his kingdom with her, and to make it more 
sacred, went with her emissary Dio into a very ancient temple 
of Zeus in Macedon and pronounced the oath, holding in his 
hands the altar and the statue of the god. The attitude of the 
swearer on these solemn occasions was that of prayer ; he stood 
with his hands stretched to heaven. When a sacrifice took place 
— and that this was not unusual is shown by the use of the 
phrase opKia tc/jlvclv for taking a solemn oath — it was conducted 
in the same manner as the sacrifices to Hades and kindred 
deities. The victim was cut down, and its blood allowed to 
flow on the ground ; in that blood the swearer bathed his 
hands. The dead body, as impure, was cast into the sea. 
Sometimes symbolical ceremonies were substituted for the 
sacrifice. Thus the people of Phoca?a, when they left their 
city and swore never to return, sank a piece of iron to the 
bottom of the sea, swearing not to return until the iron came 
to the surface again. 

A solemn oath was a necessary part of all treaties ; and when 
we have the text of a treaty, this usually forms a part of it. 
Each contracting state calls its own deities to witness ; usually 
a copy of the treaty was set up in the chief temple of each 
state, where its text was constantly under the eyes of the gods 

1 Hist. xxiv. 2. 


invoked in it. In an extant treaty 1 between the people of 
Gortyna and Hierapytna, the oath is taken by Hestia, Zeus 
Phratrius, Zeus Dictaeus, Hera, Athena Oleria, Athena Polias, 
Athena Salmonia, Apollo Pythius, Leto, Artemis, Ares, 
Aphrodite, the Curetes, Nymphs and Corybantes, and all 
gods and goddesses. In the treaty between Smyrna and 
Magnesia, 2 the Magnesians make oath by Zeus, Ge, Helios, 
Ares, Athena Areia, Artemis Tauropolos, Mater Sipylene, Apollo 
of Pandi, and all other deities, while the Smyrnseans swear 
by the same string of deities, only substituting Aphrodite 
Stratonicis for Apollo. These lists are of considerable historical 
value, giving us a notion what divinities the cities who made 
the treaty most valued and respected in their cults. 

A variant form of the oath is the ordeal, which did not 
indeed play so important a part in Greece as among our own 
barbarous ancestors, but still was much in use. At Crathis, in 
Achaia, was a temple of Ge. The priestesses who held office 
in it were obliged to take an ordeal of chastity, by drinking 
bulls' blood, which was supposed to be immediately fatal to 
those who had been unchaste. 3 The locus classicus on the 
subject of ordeals is in the Antigone of Sophocles, 4 where the 
watchman narrates how eagerly all his comrades were willing 
to go through tests to prove that they had taken no share in the 
burying of Polynices. rjfiev 8' eVot/xoi kcu [xvSpovs atpetv v^ootv, 

KOLl TTVp 8t€pTr€LV, K(Xl 0€OV<S OpKiDfAOTeiV, TO firjT€ fy)a(Tai, &C. 

The Greeks in their symbolical language called Horcus the 
son of Zeus, and the founder of civic order. And, in fact, 
in their cities every person who held any office took an oath, 
sometimes took it again and again. At Sparta oaths were 
taken every month 5 by the kings not to transgress the laws, 
and by the Ephors, on the part of the state, to support them 
constantly if they kept their oath. The kings of Epirus and 
their subjects took oaths one to another. The Archons of 
Athens, the Strategi, the Heliasts, the Hellanodicse of Olympia, 
and magistrates all over Greece, took oaths of allegiance to the 
existing constitutions. As a specimen may serve the oath of 
the Heliasts in Demosthenes' speech against Timocrates, 6 which, 
after entering into the utmost detail of their office, declares 
that they will not take bribes or be partial, calls on Zeus 
Poseidon and Demeter to witness, and begs that their future 

1 C. I. 2555. 2 C. I. 3137. The stone is at Oxford. 

3 Paus. vii. 25, 13. 4 Line 264. 

5 Xenoph. De Rep. Lac. 15. 6 P. 746, 


prosperity and adversity may depend on their abiding or not 
abiding by the words of the oath. Even those who held no 
state-office could not escape oaths. In every legal trial an 
oath was required alike of prosecutor and defendant ; every 
witness had to swear to that which he asserted ; every 
competitor in any sacred games had to take an oath that he 
would strive for the prize fairly. Even the ordinary citizens 
of Athens on reaching the ephebic age had to take a solemn 
oath to bear arms honourably in defence of state and religion, 
to go forth if appointed by lot as colonists, and to obey the 
laws and be submissive to those in office. 

If it be asked what the result of all this swearing was, the 
answer must be that it produced continual perjury and a habit 
of bad faith. Plato in the Laws 1 praises Rhadamanthys for 
having introduced in law-suits a speedy mode of settlement by 
making the parties concerned take oaths ; but he adds that 
such a proceeding, though suited to an age of honour and 
simplicity, was in his own day unsuitable, since some people 
denied the existence of the gods, others thought that they 
existed indeed but cared nought for human affairs ; but the 
baser sort, who were also the majority, thought that the gods 
could be easily persuaded by sacrifices and flatteries to forgive 
them for any perjuries they might commit. Plato would 
therefore do away with oaths. And it is easy to see that the 
Athenian custom of making oaths compulsory at every turn 
must have thoroughly familiarised the people with the sight 
ami the habit of perjury. And if this was the case in the 
time of Plato, and among the Athenians who were of better 
faith than most of the Greeks, we may easily imagine that 
among the dissolute Greeks of Asia and Italy perjury was quite 
a usual habit. To Dionysius of Syracuse is attributed the 
saying that boys were to be cheated with knuckle-bones, and 
men with oaths. Even the Spartans were more lax in this 
respect, if we may trust Attic writers, than in other parts of 
morality. Only in the age after Alexander oaths almost ceased 
to deceive, because everybody had ceased to believe in their 
being kept; and Grseca fides was to the Romans, at that time 
of sterner morality, equivalent to faithlessness. 

Those who find the origin of sacrifice in the desire of a clan 
to renew its common life with its deity or totem, find a parallel 
explanation of the origin of purification. As Robertson Smith 
writes, 2 "Primarily purification means the application to the 

1 P. 948. 2 ReJ if/ion of the Semites, i. p. 405. 


person of some medium which removes a taboo, and enables 
the person purified to mingle freely in the ordinary life of 
his fellows." There are many ways in which man or woman 
can come in contact with what is forbidden, and so acquire 
ceremonial uncleanness, by childbirth, contact with the dead 
or the like, or by the commission of some marked offence 
against the community. In such case the impurity has to be 
removed before the unclean person can mix with the life of the 
clan, and still more before he can venture to approach the sacred 
beings who are the protectors and source of the common life. 

Purifications are a marked feature of the Levitical code of 
the Hebrews, and sufficiently familiar to all readers of the 
Bible. In Greece they belong in a special degree to the cult 
of Apollo which had its centre at Delphi, and to the more 
mystic cult of Dionysus, in which lustrations were a prominent 
feature. In the Iliad and Odyssey this phase of religious cult 
is scarcely visible. As it is deeply rooted in all lands in the 
thought and feeling of barbarians, we must suppose that for 
some reason the Greek aristocracy of whom the Homeric poems 
treat had escaped from its influence. But in historic Greece, 
on the other hand, we have abundant evidence of its power. 

Purifications may be divided into two kinds, those which 
were merely ceremonial and formal, and those which partook 
rather of the nature of expiation and implied a sense of guilt. 
The former kind is easily explicable, whether the account above 
given of its origin be correct or not. It was quite in accord 
with the Greek nature to consider any uncleanness as unfitting 
a worshipper to enter into the presence of the gods. This 
dictated the custom already mentioned of placing water at the 
doors of temples, that all who passed in might sprinkle them- 
selves and so be ceremonially purged. The water used for this 
purpose should be either running or else salt. Salt water was 
considered as especially cleansing ; and for ceremonial sprink- 
ling, water was fetched from the sea, or salt was mingled with 
fresh water. In the same way, as the contact of a corpse made 
a person unclean, a bowl of water was placed at the door of 
the house where a dead man lay, in order that all who passed 
out might sprinkle themselves and do away with the impurity. 
Women on bringing forth children were at once formally 
impure, and had to absent themselves for forty days from the 
temples of the gods, after which they were purified, and brought 
an offering to Hestia or to Artemis, goddess of delivery ; the 
new-born child was also submitted to a ceremony of purifica- 
tion by fire. At Delos means were taken to remove at once 


to another island any person in :i dangerous illness, or any 
woman about to bear a child, in order that the sacred island of 
Apollo should not be polluted by death or by childbirth. In 
later purifications there is a mixture of hygiene with religion ; 
and corporeal cleansing accompanied that which was merely 
ceremonial ; but this idea seems foreign to the barbarian. 

In cases, however, in which the impurity to be removed was 
not merely ceremonial, but deeper and connected with the feel- 
ings of guilt and transgression, mere cleansing with water or 
fire did not suffice, and some expiatory sacrifice, involving the 
shedding of blood, was necessary. Of such expiatory sacrifices 
we will treat in the next cbapter. 



In all ancient cult, by far the most important place is occupied 
by sacrifice. This is at once the most primitive and the most 
usual means by which relations were established between wor- 
shipper and worshipped. Of late years the researches of an- 
thropologists, and especially of Mr. Robertson Smith, have been 
largely devoted to the origin and history of sacrifice, 1 and 
although it must be allowed that these investigations leave 
much obscure and unintelligible, yet they are successful in 
laying down the main outlines of the subject, and in explain- 
ing many phenomena which had hitherto remained inexplicable. 
It is impossible here to enter into the very obscure and 
difficult question of the origins of sacrifice, which lie beyond 
the domain of history. Mr. Robertson Smith seeks those 
origins in the idea of a common life belonging to all the 
members of a clan, and shared by them with their deity, or 
rather with their totem, w r hich was commonly an animal held 
sacred by the clan, and regarded as closely akin to it. Such 
totem was not only propitiated by offerings, but its life was 
also held sacred ; and only on rare and solemn occasions was a 
totem animal slain, in order that, by partaking of its blood or 
life, the members of the clan might renew their sacred kinship. 

1 See especially Tylor, Primitive Culture; W. R. Smith, The Religion 
of the Semites, and the article Sacrifice in the Encyclopedia Britannica ; 
J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough. 


But the meaning and purpose of totemism is as yet unexplained ; 
and though it cannot be doubted that the ideas it embodies are 
a vera causa in relation to many customs of primitive religion, 
yet their influence may easily be exaggerated. For example, 
Mr. Robertson Smith observes * that the custom of bringing food 
to the gods seems to have originated in the offering of food to 
sacred animals, " for in totemism the gifts laid before the sacred 
animals are actually eaten." This, however, is not borne out 
by the evidence. It is far more probable that the offering of 
food to the gods arose out of the cultus of the dead, the dead 
being supposed to require sustentation as well as the living. 

Without, however, going deeper into these matters, we 
cannot do better than adopt the valuable and luminous division 
originated by Mr. Robertson Smith 2 of sacrifices into three 
classes: (1) honorific or donatory ; (2) piacular; (3) mystic. 

No doubt a confusion between the kinds of sacrifice was 
usual in many times and places. Certainly in Greek ritual, as 
it has come down to us, such confusion prevails. Nevertheless 
it tends greatly to clearness and to a right apprehension of the 
facts, if we try, so far as possible, to regard donatory, piacular, 
and mystic offerings as distinct in kind. 

(1) Donatory Sacrifices. — The Greeks, as far back as we can 
trace them in history, regarded their deities as in most respects 
like men, and like men, in particular, in their desire of food 
and drink, as well as garments, vessels, and other spoil. There 
is a well-known line perhaps of Hesiod : 3 — 

Aujpa deovs 7rei#ei, Sup' alSotovs j3acri\rjas. 

Coupling this with the well-known fact that all sacrifices laid 
upon the altar were originally regarded as the immediate food 
of the gods, we have a ready explanation of many sacrifices. 
As the early Greeks built for the gods houses like those of 
their chiefs, so they thought it necessary to bring them food 
and drink, to lay fruits on their tables, and to please their 
nostrils with the sweet scent of incense. They thought the 
gods to have appetites like their own, and hoped by satisfy- 
ing their desires to win favour and help to themselves. This 
idea, when fully worked out, will account for many facts re- 
garding Greek sacrifice. 

1 Religion of the Semites, p. 212. The fact that the clan totems of 
savages are sometimes not animals tells strongly against the views of this 

2 Encycl. Brit,, art. Sacrifice. 3 In Plato, Republ. iii. p. 390. 


At first the sacrifice was very literally rendered. Sometimes 
the victim was so slain that its blood ran on to the sacred 
stone or tree, which was in many places the visible embodiment 
of the divine presence, or the wine of the offering was poured 
into the ground whereon these fetishes stood. Sometimes the 
sacrificial offering was burned whole, as a holocaust. But 
usages arose whereby the burning was partial. Certain portions 
only were set aside for the gods, and the rest served for the 
maintenance of the officiating priests, who devoured it as the 
representatives of their deity. In later times this priestly 
share was often sold in the markets as ordinary food. The 
frugal Greeks would seldom slay an ox or sheep merely for 
eating, so that they partook of fresh meat mainly in connection 
with the numerous sacrifices. In time the pleasure of the gods 
in food and drink was taken less and less literally by the 
people. In Homer, great deities like Zeus and Poseidon are 
spoken of as revelling in the enjoyment of sacrifice. In the 
first book of the Iliad Chryses recalls to Apollo all the rich 
sacrifices which he has enjoyed at the hands of his priest, and 
claims in return the aid of the god against the sons of Atreus. 
Hesiod takes, if possible, a still lower view of the divine nature : 
the gods according to him are as open to bribery as the chiefs 
themselves. This view is not far removed from that of the 
Hindus, who suppose that sacrifices and prayers to the gods 
confer on the votary a distinct right to his aid when occasion 
arises. In later Greece, and among the more educated classes, 
we find a different feeling. "Not even a good man," says 
Plato in the Laics, 1 " will receive gifts from the wicked, still 
less the gods : all the pains which the wicked take to conciliate 
them are thrown away." There was then more of that feeling 
which Schomann 2 lays at the root of sacrifice, that the gods 
deserve the best we have to offer, the feeling which makes 
men anxious to give the earliest and best of the things which 
come to them to the gods, such gifts as first-fruits, and beautiful 
flowers, and unblemished animals. 

We must distinguish between things dedicated to the gods 
and sacrifices proper. A thing dedicated remained in the 
house of the god as a continual possession ; the thing sacrificed 
was used up for his immediate pleasure. We may find gifts 
of a character intermediate between the two. Such are the 
corn and fruits which were continually in many temples laid 
on the table before the deity, and which, not being consumed, 

2 Gr. Alterthiimcr, ii. p. 212. 

2 3 8 CULTUS 

in time fell to the priests. Such we may consider coins thrown 
into a well for the benefit of some deity, or hair cut off in his 
honour, on some event of life. Hence the ancients speak of 
fireless offerings, airvpa • and of things which were actually 
sacrificed, some were not consumed with fire. Wine and milk 
in libations were merely poured on the ground, and horses 
were driven alive into sea or river and so drowned. Still the 
great intermediary between gods and men was fire. All primi- 
tive people hold fire in the greatest reverence. It is the means 
of all the comfort of life, the greatest and most perfect of 
purifying powers, irresistible in its wrath, and of infinite 
service to man in warming his hut, cooking his food, moulding 
his weapons. In the Vedas, Agni is among the greatest of 
the gods, and the representative and messenger of the rest; 
receiving gifts from men and transporting them in vaporous 
form to the abode of the deities. Hestia, the household fire, 
was, as we have seen in a previous chapter, held in high honour 
among the early Greeks, and received a share in their food and 
drink. Thus it was by no chance, but in accord with a deep 
principle of human nature, that things presented to the gods 
were submitted to the action of fire. And it was supposed 
that as they passed away and disappeared from earth, they were 
received and enjoyed by the deities hovering about the altar, 
and invisibly present at the sacrifice. 

Plato in the Laws, 1 and after him Porphyry, maintains that 
the earliest offerings in Greece were of the kind called bloodless. 
It is, however, probable that this was an ungrounded theory of 
rationalising philosophers. Of this class were fruits, and the 
first-fruits of the crops, which were sometimes consumed with 
fire. Bread and cakes were also sometimes offered on the altars, 
moulded into the form of victims and burned in their place, 
but in this instance it is evident that the bloodless sacrifice was 
a mere substitute for that in which blood was shed. The term 
bloodless, avou/xos, also applies to the various sorts of libation 
which were offered either at the time of sacrifice, or in the course 
of ordinary meals. As vegetable sacrifices were considered more 
primitive and pure than animal sacrifices, 2 so libations of honey 
and milk were reckoned purer than those of wine. And 
though wine was the common matter of libations, and even 
unmixed wine, which was |>oured to the deities by those who 

1 vi. p. 78213. 

2 The opposite idea seems to have been current among the Jews : Genesis 
iv. 3. 4- 



themselves drank only wine mixed with water, yet there were 
certain deities to whom wine was not offered. The Eleans 1 
offered wine to all deities save the Arcadian Despeena and the 
Nymphs. And generally virgin deities, like the Hours, Muses, 
and the daughters of Erechtheus, were regaled with no wine, 
hut with honey, oil, and milk. There were here and there in 
Greece altars on which only hloodless offerings, fruits and 
bread, and incense and the like could be offered : such altars 
as that of the " Pious " at Delos, and that of Zeus Hypatus at 
Athens. And at certain feasts animal sacrifices were not in 
vogue, in the Diasia, for instance, at Athens, when animals of 
breadstuffs were offered to the reconciling Zeus, Zevs M^Ai'xios. 

In donatory sacrifice, men naturally gave to the gods the 
animals which they themselves used as food — the ox, which 
was of course the noblest of victims, the sheep, goat, pig, or 
fowl most commonly. Two or three of these were often com- 
bined in a single sacrifice, as in the Koman suovetaurilia, or 
the annual sacrifices to Herakles at Thebes and elsewhere, con- 
sisting of bull, ram, and goat. In Homer we do not read of 
the sacrifice of any but domestic animals, and this would seem 
a natural custom, men giving to the gods the flesh which they 
themselves preferred. Swine were the chief food of the Greeks 
themselves in early times, and so they remained usual in more 
primitive cults. 

(2) Piacular Sacrifices. — These are offerings made to the 
gods, especially the gods of the nether world, when in any 
way the normal relations of man to the spiritual powers of the 
world are disturbed. 

Of the mere ceremonial purifications which preceded any 
approach to the gods I have already spoken, but the purifica- 
tion which involved sacrifice was reserved for this place. The 
animal offered on such occasion was a pig, perhaps because of 
the normal dedication of that animal to the nether deities. 
The Hellanodicae and the women chosen to weave the annual 
peplos for Hera at Olympia, cleansed themselves before entering 
on their office in water from the spring Piera, 2 and sacrificed 
a pig. Before the beginning of business in the Athenian 
assembly a pair of pigs was sacrificed, and the seats sprinkled 
with their blood, in order to remove any hidden impurity in 
any of the citizens. On one occasion as the Athenians were 
assembled, news was brought to them of the terrible massacre 
by the democratic party at Argos, in which twelve hundred 

Paus. v. 15, 10. 

2 Paus. v. 16, 8. 


of their opponents had fallen ; and the assembly, struck with 
horror, ordered the purificatory ceremonies with which the 
sitting had begun to be repeated, considering that the mere 
hearing of such horrors brought a kind of pollution. A cere- 
mony of the same nature took place at the beginning of 
dramatic displays, and of the various religious ceremonies. 
In some places a dog, the favourite of Hecate, was put instead 
of the pig in such sacrifices : in Boeotia, for instance, dogs were 
slain and cut in pieces, and the people walked between their 
scattered limbs. Purification by bathing and the sacrifice of a pig 
was necessary before one partook of the Mysteries of Eleusis. 

We must distinguish from such customary purifications those 
intended really to appease the wrath of the gods. When a 
Greek had the consciousness of having committed a crime he 
sought means to propitiate the deities he had offended and to 
recover divine favour. If he fell into any misfortune he would 
scarcely fail to suppose that it came upon him as a punishment 
for misdoing, and be eager to remove the cause. Even an evil 
dream or an omen which he considered unfortunate would make 
him feel that he was out of favour with heaven and needed to 
be reconciled. So a state which was visited with any calamity 
in war or an epidemic sickness would apply to priest or sooth- 
sayer or oracle to discover by what means it could regain the 
lost favour of heaven. And if this feeling arose in the breasts 
of those who had no special consciousness of wrong-doing, far 
more did it harass and oppress those, whether individuals or 
communities, who were aware that they had committed some 
crime and incurred the just wrath of heaven. 

It is remarked by several writers that the idea of divine 
anger being kindled by the shedding of blood and needing to be 
propitiated is absent from the Homeric poems. The Homeric 
heroes think that they have sufficiently atoned for a crime 
when they compensate the sufferers and acknowledge that they 
were in the wrong. It was probably the Apolline religion 
which first made usual in Greece those ideas of the necessity 
of purification after bloodshed which were so usual in later 
Greece. These ideas were indeed somewhat undeveloped. The 
Greeks seem to have made but small distinction, as regards 
need of expiation, between intentional and unintentional homi- 
cide : they regarded both alike as incurring the displeasure of 
heaven, and as requiring the intervention of Apollo. If the 
man who slew without malice was less to be blamed than the 
intentional slayer, yet his misfortune would not be possible 
unless he had by some means forfeited divine good-will. 


In phenomena such as these we see the survival of notions 
with which the student of primitive man is sufficiently familiar. 
Among savage clans the slaying of any one outside the clan 
is no crime, though of course it is the source of a blood 
feud between the slayer and the clan of his victim. But 
when clansman is slain by clansman, even unintentionally, an 
act of impiety is committed, and a barrier raised up between 
the clan and its divinities, which has to be removed by further 
shedding of blood in sacrifice, or else by the total expulsion 
and outlawry of the offender. 

One of the earliest mentions of purification from blood- 
shed is that in the jEthiopis of Arctinus, 1 where it was 
narrated how Odysseus in Lesbos purified Achilles when he 
had slain Thersites. In the time of Croesus the custom seems 
to have been spread through Greece and Lydia, for Herodotus 
tells how Adrastus arrived at the court of that king demanding 
purification from blood-shedding, and how Croesus first purified 
him, and then asked whom he had slain ; and this instance 
brings under our notice one of the chief features of purification 
from bloodshed, that it could not take place in the same neigh- 
bourhood wherein was committed the deed requiring expiation. 
Perhaps the original idea was that the spirit of the dead man 
remained on the spot where he was slain, implacable in anger, 
and that the only way to escape his wrath was to flee to other 
lands. What is certain is that expatriation was in these cases 
necessary, and that it lasted a year at least, whence it was 
called a7r€vtavTwr/xo§. Indeed, what prudence dictated to a 
shedder of blood was an immediate flight either beyond seas 
or to one of those asylums which were sufficiently sacred to 
stay all attempts at pursuit. 

Greece was full of the stories of the purification of gods, 
heroes, and men after they had committed homicide. Apollo 
himself required to be purified after he had slain the Python, 
and Herakles, when he had shot down the drunken Centaurs. 
At Troezen 2 they showed the place where the townsmen of 
that city purified Orestes after he had slain his mother. Before 
he was purified, says Pausanias, no one would admit him under 
his roof ; but afterwards, he was easily admitted. The means 
of purification was water from the fountain Hippocrene, and 
a sacrifice, which being buried near by, a laurel-tree grew up 
rooted in the decay of the victim. 

1 See the Chrestomathia of Proclus. 

2 Pans. ii. 31, 8. 


We possess in the Argonautica 1 of Apollonius Rhodius a 
full description of a ceremony of purification supposed to be 
performed by Circe over the persons of Jason and Medeia after 
they had slain Absyrtus. Circe slays a young pig, and pours 
blood from the wound over the hands of the polluted pair. 
She then washes them, no doubt with living water, which is 
carried away by an attendant and poured on the earth. She 
then burns cakes and other purifying ndXtKTpa and pours out 
wineless libations, and calls upon Zeus to restrain the Erinnyes 
and to forgive the offenders. After all the ceremony she 
proceeds, as did Croesus in similar case, to ask what kind of 
a crime her suppliants have committed. Of course, in time, 
the courts of law superseded proceedings of this kind, which 
had a theocratic rather than a democratic air ; and though 
the custom of banishment and even that of purification did not 
go entirely out of use in the days of Thucydides and Xeno- 
phon, yet these formed no bar to regular legal proceedings. 

Not individuals only required purification from bloodshed, 
but also states. After the slaughter of the partisans of Cylon, 2 
the city of Athens was regarded by its own inhabitants as so 
polluted as to require extraordinary means of purification. 
Epimenides, the Cretan, who had a great reputation for piety 
and his knowledge of divine affairs, was sent for, and he 
purged the city with a variety of ceremonies. Among other 
proceedings we learn that he dispersed from the Areiopagus as 
a centre a flock of black and white sheep in every direction, 
and bade the people sacrifice each on the spot on which he 
lay down to the deity to whom that spot was sacred. The 
Argives, 3 after they had accomplished the slaughter of a 
thousand men, whom they had enrolled as a sort of standing 
army, but who had begun to oppress them, felt their city 
polluted, and among other means of expiation erected a statue 
of Zeus Meilichius made by the younger Polycleitus, and 
established a cultus in his honour. Some of the Cynsethians 4 
who had in civil strife imbrued their hands with the blood of 
their fellow-citizens fled to Mantinea ; but the Mantineans not 
only would not receive them, but considered their territory 
polluted by their visit, and caused it to be formally purified. 
Such events as these are of common occurrence in Greek 
history, and show that if the Hellenes were swift to shed 
blood, especially in political strife, they felt that it was a 

1 iv. 1. 702. 2 Plutarch, Solon, c. 12. 

j. ii. 20, 2 4 Polyb. iv. 21, 8. 


crime, and were not satisfied until they had shown in sight of 
gods and men that they regarded themselves as rendered 
unclean by such sanguinary excesses. 

A noteworthy feature of the piacular sacrifice was that the 
victim was not consumed, either by priest or votary, but made 
away with, burned, or buried, or cast into the sea. As the 
notion of substitution prevails in regard to this kind of sacrifice, 
it would be natural to suppose that the body was destroyed as 
having taken on it the guilt of those who made the sacrifice, 
and so become polluted. But Robertson Smith doubts whether 
this was the case : he thinks that the offering was not eaten 
rather because it was sacred than because it was polluted. 

As Robertson Smith observes, in honorific sacrifice the deity 
accepts a gift ; in piacular sacrifice he demands a life Thus 
piacular sacrifices belong primarily to times of depression and 
calamity ; and those who offer them give usually that which 
they hold most dear to appease the wrath of a god to whom 
their lives are forfeit. As the Greeks were not at any time 
of which we have knowledge cannibals, a human victim could 
not! appropriately be offered as food to the gods ; but human 
sacrifices were not unknown in piacular sacrifice down to even 
the Christian era. In the presence of great danger or calamity, 
men tended to try to purchase divine favour by human sacri- 
fice, as Codrus offered himself on behalf of Athens, and as 
Iphigeneia was given to Artemis to buy off her displeasure. 
Piacular sacrifices, thus starting, might easily become embodied 
in ritual, and have a place in regular civic cultus ; and then, 
of course, there would be a strong tendency to soften the 
asperity of the rite by putting enemies, criminals, or animals 
in the place of a child of the clan. 

At the same time, as a modification of this view, it must be 
pointed out that though a human victim would not be brought 
as food to the gods, he might be brought as a slave, and sent 
to them by fire, instead of being retained in the temple service. 
The well-known sacrifice of Trojan youths at the tomb of 
l'atroclus, as narrated in the Iliad, suggests that human 
victims were by no means an inappropriate offering to a dead 
hero, and so to the gods, who in many ways inherited the 
customs of the cultus of the dead. 

In later Greece human sacrifices were rare, but in many places 
we may find indications of their previous existence. Thus at 
Rhodes l there was in early times an annual custom of sacrificing 

1 Porphyry, Abst. ii. 54. 


a man to Cronus, who is here clearly but a translation of the 
Phoenician Moloch, a well-known lover of human victims. In 
later times the Rhodians, not venturing entirely to abandon the 
custom, still put to death a man at the festival ; but he was 
a criminal who had merited death, and he was allowed an 
unlimited quantity of wine beforehand to act as an anaesthetic. 
At Leucas 1 there had been an ancient custom of annually hurling 
a man from a projecting rock into the sea in honour of Apollo : 
in this instance not only was a criminal chosen, but he was 
allowed some chance of escape, feathers and even living birds 
being tied to him to lighten his fall, and boats waiting below to 
rescue him if not killed before he reached the sea. In other 
cases the human character of the sacrifices was indeed retained, 
but bleeding was substituted for slaying. The most notable 
instances of this occur in the cult at various places of the 
Tauric Artemis. 2 The altars of this goddess at Sparta ran with 
the blood of Spartan youths who were scourged in her honour. 
In the cult of Zeus Laphystius in later times the victim was 
selected, but was allowed to escape at the altar. 

Still commoner was the substitution for the human victim of 
some animal or some inanimate object. The tale of Iphigeneia 
at Aulis, and the substitution for her of a deer, is well known, 
and dates from early times. Pausanias 3 narrates a story of a 
similar kind from Potnise in Boeotia. A man having in a 
drunken fit slain the priest of Dionysus iEgobalus, it was 
ordered by a response of the Delphic oracle that a youth at 
the age of puberty should be yearly sacrificed ; but soon after- 
wards, as the story goes, the god himself substituted a goat 
for the human victim. zElian 4 recounts a curious instance 
of a similar kind from Tenedos. Here a cow about to bring 
forth was treated, as a human mother, with care and tender- 
ness ; when the calf was born, cothurni were put on its feet, 
and it was sacrificed to Dionysus ; but the priest who slew 
it had to fly the spot and run as far as the sea. We even 
hear of clay images being substituted for human victims in 
certain sacrifices by the Greeks, just as they buried with their 
dead loaves of terra-cotta, and as they burned in honour of 
the deites cakes in the form of animals, in the place of the 
animals themselves. 

Certain well-known events in Greek history may be here 

1 Strabo, x. p. 694. 2 Eurip. /ph. in Tauris, 1. 1425. 3 ix. 8, 2. 

4 iEHan, Nat. Anvm. xii. 34. This instance might be taken in another 
sense. The calf may have been treated as human, to make clear its 
kinship with the tribe, of which it represented the totem. 


cited as illustrating the statements above made. Before the 
battle of Salamis, as Plutarch 1 tells us, on the authority of 
Phanias, when Themistocles was sacrificing, according to the 
custom of Greek generals, three noble Persian prisoners were 
brought in ; and at the sight of them the seer Euphrantides at 
at once cried out that they should be sacrificed to Dionysus 
Omestes. Themistocles hesitated ; but the bystanders urged 
him not to neglect the words of the seer, and the sacrifice 
actually took place. To slay a few enemies captured in war 
could not seem very harsh to any Greek : it was the idea of 
the deities delighting in human blood which shocked Themis- 
tocles. In the time of Pelopidas 2 the Theban this feeling had 
grown. Before the battle of Leuctra, his army encamped near 
the graves of the Leuctran virgins who were said to have been 
in old time murdered by Spartans. These heroines appeared 
to the general, and their father promised victory on condi- 
tion of his sacrificing on the morrow a yellow-haired virgin. 
Pelopidas was wholly disinclined to accept the omen, however 
favourable ; but the appearance next day of a yellow foal en- 
abled him to fulfil the injunction of the hero without violating 
humanity or insulting the gods. 

(3) Mystic Sacrifices. — Of all sacrifices these are nearest to 
the original type, if the views of Robertson Smith be founded. 
Their essence lies in the participation by the worshippers and 
the worshipped in a solemn bond of blood-fellowship. Robertson 
Smith sketches in clear lines the nature of this rite among primi- 
tive peoples who are in the stage of totemism. 3 The slaughter 
of an animal of the kind regarded as sacred by the tribe " is 
permitted or required on solemn occasions ; and all the tribes- 
men partake of its flesh, that they may thereby cement and 
seal their mystic unity with one another and with their god." 
"The solemn mystery of its death is justified by the considera- 
tion that only in this way can the sacred cement be procured 
which creates or keeps alive a living bond of union between 
the worshippers and their god. This cement is nothing else 
than the actual life of the sacred and kindred animal, which 
is conceived as residing in its flesh, but especially in its blood, 
and so, in the sacred meal, is actually distributed among all the 
participants, each of whom incorporates a particle of it with 
his own individual life." 

The same mystic drawing together of the bond of unity in 

1 Themist. 13 ; Aristkl. 9. 2 Plutarch, Pclop. 20-22. 

3 Religion of the Semites, p. 295. 


a tribe is a feature of the feasts or sacrifices which families 
celebrated at the tombs of their ancestors, and clans at the 
heroon of their eponymous hero. In each case the dead was 
regarded as the host, and as taking a share, though it might be 
an invisible share, in the feast. But in historic Greece the 
deep-seated beliefs which made the sanctity of sacrifice were 
embodied less in the rites of ordinary, civic, or family worship 
than in the ordinances of those more secret cults which were 
termed by the Greeks mysteries, and more especially in those 
attached to Dionysus. At the fierce carnival of the Agrionia, 
the wild women who rioted in the service of Dionysus tore to 
pieces with hands and teeth a victim chosen for the purpose 
and devoured its palpitating flesh. This victim was in some 
cases a bull, in some cases a fawn or kid, but we read of 
instances in which a human life was thus taken ; and in any 
case the victim was regarded as a substitute for the god, so that 
those who devoured its flesh and drank its hot blood were 
united to the god in a terrible sacrament. Robertson Smith 1 
cites a parallel in Arabia, where the members of a tribe, 
placing a live camel in their midst, would, in honour of the 
morning star, which they specially venerated, at a given signal 
tear it in pieces and devour it raw. 

It was natural that in Greece and Italy rites so foul were 
strongly opposed by the authorities, and their persistency shows 
that they rested on a primeval basis of profound belief. 

In considering the reasons which dictated the choice of a 
victim for various deities, we must distinguish between the 
causes which researches into the early history of mankind 
render plausible, and those which the Greeks themselves re- 
garded as operative. On the whole, anthropological reasonings, 
though by no means infallible, are more to be trusted than the 
inferences of the Greeks themselves, since, in a mythopceic age, 
a custom at once gives rise to legends invented merely to 
explain it. The rule laid down by Robertson Smith is that 
for ordinary and donative sacrifices in antiquity, such animals 
were used as constituted the food of the worshippers ; but that 
in the case of the rarer and more solemn sacrifices of a piacular 
or mystic character, the animal was chosen which was supposed 
most nearly to represent the god, possibly the animal which, as 
a totem, had preceded the advent of the god. Of course this 
rule does not hold in all cases, for when principles were 
forgotten, customs were apt to be improperly transferred from 

1 Religion of the Semites, p. 264. 


one rite to another ; and in Greek cult a custom once established 
seldom long lacked a basis in legend. 

The Greeks themselves, as is natural, justified the sacrifices 
which they offered less on general principles than on local 
grounds ; but a few rules were recognised in practice, whatever 
may have been their origin. 

Sometimes the animal chosen for sacrifice to a god was one 
regarded as especially grateful to him. The Rhodians annually 
drove into the sea as a sacrifice to Helios a four-horse chariot, 
and the Argives drowned horses in honour of Poseidon. Stags 
and other wild creatures Avere offered on the altar of their 
protectress Artemis. For many deities, victims were chosen 
from the sacred herds which fed on their special domain. The 
dog was at Sparta sacrificed to Ares ; and it was supposed that 
his quarrelsome nature rendered him a favourite of that deity ; 
and when the same animal Avas offered to Hecate, a justification 
was found in the fact that dogs are in the habit of baying the 
moon. The fish called rpiyXr], 1 the mullet, was sacrificed to the 
triple Hecate, probably in accordance with some legend arising 
out of its name. 

Other instances could be cited in which the favourite animal 
of a deity was also the favourite sacrifice to that deity. But 
this was not in Greek opinion the only rule. The goat was 
sacrificed to Dionysus, and a reason was found in his destruction 
of the young shoots of the vine ; and the slaying of swine in 
honour of Demeter was justified on the ground of the injury 
done by swine to crops. In these cases the ancient explanation 
is almost certainly wrong. The goat frequently in ancient art 
accompanies Dionysus, and the swine was closely connected 
with Demeter at Eleusis. A good instance of the change 
of view in regard to a sacrifice may be found in the cultus of 
Apollo Lyceius at Sicyon. 2 Pausanias tells us that near the 
temple on occasions food had been set out for wolves and 
poisoned under the direction of the god. We have here an 
almost certain instance of perversion, for it is more than likely 
that originally food was laid out for the wolves as the sacred 
beasts of the wolf-god Apollo, and that the poisoning was a later 

The most general rule applying to all animals brought for 
sacrifice was that they should be sound and free from blemish. 
Plato, however, says 3 that the Lacedaemonians neglected this 
maxim and offered even crippled animals, which he considers a 

1 Athen. vii. p. 3256. 2 Paus. ii. 9, 7. 3 Alcib. ii. p. 149a. 


sign of their want of reverence, but which probably rather shows 
their want of refinement. Victims must also be unused by man: 
everywhere oxen which had been used for the plough were 
exempt. In other respects there was the greatest local variation. 
An inscription from Ceos x ordains that at some local feast oxen 
and sheep which have cast their milk-teeth shall be slain, and 
swine which are not more than a year and three months old. 
To the greater gods adult victims were a fitting sacrifice, such as 
the ox and the swine of five years old, of which Homer speaks. 
There was a law at Athens that lambs should not be sacrificed 
before they were shorn, nor sheep before they had lambed. 
Generally the sex of the victim followed that of the deity 
to whom it was devoted, and its age corresponded to that 
assigned to such deity : a young heifer to Artemis, and an 
adult bull to Zeus were obviously fitting offerings. As to 
colour, there was a fairly constant rule that white animals were 
most suitable for offering to an Olympian deity, and black to a 
chthonic deity or a hero. 

A certain cleanliness and purity were required in those who 
conducted sacrifice. Not only was the priest expected to be clean 
and clad in clean, usually white, garments, but he was also, as 
Porphyry 2 says, to keep apart from tombs and not look on 
objects of mournful or obscene character. A purity of heart to 
correspond to this ceremonial purity was certainly not required 
in earlier times : such an idea could only arise as religion 
became more subjective. The use of flowers to decorate the 
altar was in Greece universal, and priests and votaries wore 
garlands not only on their heads but often over arms and 
breast. Taeniae, too, long scarfs tied in a bow, were, as we know 
from the testimony of vases, wound round the heads and arms 
of those who took any part in a religious service. There is 
hardly a trace in purely Greek religion of the ideas which have 
always prevailed among Semitic races and those influenced by 
them, that low prostrations, self -defilement with sackcloth and 
ashes, and meagreness and filth of body are things acceptable in 
the eyes of heaven. The Hellenes supposed their deities to 
look more favourably on an erect carriage, careful dress, and a 
self-confidence not mingled with boasting. 

The larger temples of Greece were daily the scene of private 
religious services. A family wished to bespeak the favour of 
a deity for one of their number who was about to undertake 
some serious task — to sail for a distant shore, to marry, to 

1 C. T. 2360; Rangabe, No. 821. 2 De Abst. ii. 50. 



enter for the games, or the like. They would approach the 
temple in a group, like those represented on many of the 

votive tablets of the temples of Asklepius, bringing with them 
some victim as an offering. The priest and his attendants, clad 


in the festal attire of which we have spoken, would, on behalf of 
the deity, meet his votaries outside the door of the temple. The 
sacrifice was to be a meal, shared with the god on his table, 
the altar, whereby he became as it were a guest-friend, and 
well disposed to the votary. But he must not be thus ap- 
proached against his will, and therefore it became important 
to observe any external sign whereby his pleasure might be 
conveyed. Chief among such indications was the port and 
behaviour of the sacrificial animal. If he seemed willingly 
to approach the altar, and above all if he bowed his head 
to the stroke which laid him low, it Avas the best of omens. 
Reluctance and restiveness were, on the other hand, a sign 
that the deity was unfriendly. There was much art displayed 
by the temple servants in procuring behaviour such as they 
wished in the victim : he was lured, not driven, to the place 
of slaughter, and made to lower his head by a sudden dashing 
of water in his ears. 

After all present had been sprinkled with water, specially 
purified 1 by contact with embers from the altar, in sign of 
their participation in the ceremony, and the priest had uttered 
the warning, etx^y/xeiTe or ei'^/xta eVrw, the prayers appropriate 
to the occasion were recited. Of these I have already treated : 
they were in all cases but short, for the Greeks were not of 
those heathen who thought they would be heard for much 
speaking. Then, to the sound of the flute, proceeded the 
act of sacrifice. The victim was led, bedecked with garlands, 
to the altar. Barley, ovXoxvtou, was brought in baskets, and 
thrown over his head and body, as part of the divine banquet, 
just as in human banquets bread accompanies meat. A few 
hairs were cut from the head of the victim, and thrown into 
the sacrificial fire, an operation considered as a sort of offering 
of first-fruits. The beast was then struck down by the priest 
or his servant by a single blow of club or axe, and his throat 
cut with the sacred knife, so that his blood might freely flow. 
With the blood the altars were sprinkled. The fall of the 
victim was greeted with loud shouts or with shrill sounds 
of the flute, which drowned the groans of the dying animal. 
Instantly he was skinned by the temple-slaves, and his limbs 
divided. Part of the body was burned on the altar, usually 
the fat and a part of each limb. The thigh-bones, wrapped in 
fat, were commonly assigned as the share of the deity ; and 
a fable was told of Prometheus, 2 that he had outwitted Zeus 

1 Athen. ix. p. 409a. Cf. Isa. vi. 6. 2 Hesiod, Theog. 541. 


into choosing this portion. Homer speaks of giving to the 
gods the thighs wrapped in fat, fnrjpovs t' e^era/xov Kara re 
kvwtq €Ka\vifav ; l and it lias been disputed whether this 

phrase can be applied only to bones and fat, or whether it 
necessarily includes the flesh of the thighs. If the latter, 
then the share taken by the gods in sacrifice grew less in the 
course of Greek history. The priest received as his perquisite 
the skin and a joint of meat. The rest was eaten joyously 
at a sort of banquet, held in common by all the sacrificial 
party ; or portions were sent to the various friends who were 
unable to be present: thus every sacrifice involved a feast. 
The less wealthy Greeks seldom tasted meat except on the 
occasion of a sacrifice. The entrails of the victim were care- 
fully examined by the priest or some soothsayer, to draw from 
their condition an augury as to whether the deity was likely 
to grant the prayer which went with the offering. Copious 
libations accompanied the sacrifice and the feast, that the 
deities should not lack wine as well as meat. 

This was the course of the ordinary sacrifices to deities of 
the upper sphere; but when heroes or the chthonic deities 
were the powers to be appeased, the head of the victim was 
pressed down, so that his blood formed a pool on the ground. 
Such sacrifices were brought, not in the morning but in the 
evening, and their darker and more gloomy character, some- 
what foreign to the natural bent of the Greek nature, testified 
to the fact that even in Greece religion had its dark and stern, 
as well as its attractive and cheerful side. 



Probably no countries have been without some form of divina- 
tion, and its existence in many forms is one of the most 
striking features of Greek religious observance. It is easy to 
see what motives drove the Greeks to searching for means of 
finding out the will of the deities and their intentions for the 
future. At all times they had a strong belief in destiny or fate ; 
and it is easy to pass from the conviction that the future is 
fixed, to the belief that it can be foretold; and in the course 

1 //. i. 460. 


of life many occasions might arise when a man would hesitate 
between various courses of conduct, not knowing which was 
likely to bring the best results to him and his. In such cases 
to seek direction from the superior knowledge and wisdom of 
the gods was a natural instinct ; and besides this we must 
remember that the Greeks believed more than moderns in the 
daily and hourly intervention of supernatural powers in human 
affairs and in the course of events in the material world. 
When we see an appearance or witness an event out of the 
common course, we at once set about searching for the unusual 
cause which produced the unusual phenomenon, and never 
hesitate in our belief that such a cause must exist, even if we 
cannot trace it. But when the Greeks saw anything to which 
they were unused, or considered the usual order of nature to be 
in any way violated, they did not greatly concern themselves to 
look for the cause, but considered it at once more modest and 
more pious to assume that it was due to the direct interference 
of some deity. If any philosopher questioned this mode of 
looking at things, they would set him down as one of those 
Avho believed that the gods did not exist, or that they were 
indifferent to all human affairs. 

The superstitious man of Theophrastus is always on the look 
out for signs of the disposition towards him of the higher 
powers. "If a weasel 1 run across his path, he will not pursue 
his walk until some one else has traversed the road, or until he 
has thrown three stones across it. When he sees a serpent in 
his house, if it be the red snake he will invoke Sabazius, if 
the sacred snake, he will straightway place a shrine on the 
spot. ... If a mouse gnaws through a meal-bag, he will go 
to the expounder of sacred things (e^y^rrjs) and ask what is 
to be done ; and if the answer is, ' Give it to a cobbler to stitch 
up/ he will disregard this counsel, and go his way, and expiate 
the omen by sacrifice. . . . When he has seen a vision he 
will go to the interpreters of dreams, the seers, the augurs, to 
ask them to what god or goddess he ought to pray." 

The man who seemed superstitious to an Athenian and a 
disciple of Aristotle might in a less sceptical age be an ordinary 
citizen. The sudden meeting with an animal, the overli earing 
of words of evil omen, a stumble over a threshold might make 
almost any Greek abandon an enterprise on which he was em- 
barking. Every reader of Greek history will remember how 
the Laconian armies could not march and could not fight until 

1 Characters, 28. I quote Prof. Jebb's translation. 


the omens were favourable. And so it was in all the events of 
life. A few men in our days dislike spilling salt, or walking 
under a ladder ; and sailors notoriously dislike sailing on a 
Friday ; and in most country districts some superstition of this 
class is widely spread ; but we must greatly intensify these 
feelings, and spread them over the greater part of the occur- 
rences of every-day life, if we would hope to understand the 
attitude of mind of the ordinary Greek citizen in regard to 
omens and portents. 

Many of the omens which occurred could be understood by 
any one and needed no interpreter. Thus when in the eighth 
book of the Iliad 1 Zeus sends Agamemnon, in answer to his 
prayer for deliverance, an eagle bearing in his claws a fawn, 
which he drops by the altar of Zeus, every Achaean at once 
understands the portent, and gains fresh heart for the contest. 
Every Greek understood that thunder was the direct voice of 
Zeus, that any unwillingness in a destined victim to go to the 
altar showed that the gods would not accept the sacrifice, that 
a sneeze on the right was a good omen, and so forth. Yet, as 
most portents are of a more or less doubtful and ambiguous 
character, there arose in quite early times in Greece a class of 
men who made it their business to study and to interpret omens. 
It is supposed that the word /zavns 2 comes from the same root 
as [xavia, and that the prophet was originally the man full of 
divine frenzy, who spoke in an ecstasy. But the strong, quiet 
sense of the Greeks was averse to any wild and uncontrolled 
frenzy, and their prophets, even as early as Homer, seem to have 
been quiet and business-like professional men. In the Odyssey 3 
the prophet is spoken of as a workman (S^poepyos), and there 
is nothing ecstatic about Calchas. He is merely the man who 
can see the divine and hidden meaning in events better than 
others ; whose mind is stored with knowledge of the past, on 
the analogy of which he reads the future. He is familiar with 
the mind of the gods, and can read their will and intentions in 
every event that takes place, and every sight of daily life. 

It is a mistake to suppose that the soothsayers were always 
or usually priests. In early time they are seldom of priestly 
rank. The priest was attached to a particular temple and a 
special deity ; but the soothsayer wandered at will, attached 
himself to kings or to armies, and lived by means of his reputa- 
tion for wisdom and foresight, as the bard lived by his verses ; 
and these unattached prophets meet us throughout the course 

1 L. 249. 2 Cf. Plato's Phcedrus, p. 244. 3 xvii. 383. 


of Greek history. The Spartan armies stirred not without a 
soothsayer to direct them. The Spartans adopted the Eleian 
Tisamenus, who was a soothsayer, and even made him a citizen 
because he was supposed to be lucky in his destinies ; and he 
went with them to five great victories. The figure of Teiresias, 
familiar to all readers of Greek tragedy, was by no means with- 
out its counterpart in historical times. In the retreat of the 
Ten Thousand, soothsayers were constantly consulted, and at- 
tempts made or abandoned according to their advice ; 1 and in 
private life the poorer and more ill-educated part of the com- 
munity applied to them in difficulties, while the wealthier went 
to the oracles. There was in this matter a remarkable contrast 
between the Hebrew and the Hellenic race. Among the 
Hebrews the prophet was rated far above the priests, and ex- 
cited an admiration and veneration which they never inspired. 
Among the Hellenes on the other hand all religious authority 
settled on the priests of well-known temples, and they alone 
commanded hearty respect. The prophet was sought after and 
feared by the lower classes, but was by thinking men despised 
as an impostor. His position and reputation gradually sinks 
from the time of Homer, and is lowest during the best age of 
Greek independence. At a later period he recovers some of his 
reputation by allying himself with the cults of new deities 
which then made their way into Greece from the East. The 
Greek priests, on the other hand, gained almost complete con- 
trol of soothsaying by attaching its regular exercise to the 
various oracular temples, where it was practised, not indeed by 
themselves, but by subordinate ministers, under their control 
and direction. There were indeed certain soothsaying families 
who enjoyed a reputation second only to that of the oracles. 
Such were the Iamidre at Elis, and a clan among the Acarna- 
nians, who furnished prophets both to Athens and Sparta. Of 
their number was Amphilytus, soothsayer of Peisistratus, and 
Megistias, who met his death amid the other heroes at Ther- 
mopylae. Such prophetic gentes existed also in semi-Greek 
places, such as Telmessus in Caria and Hybla in Sicily. The 
most reputable soothsayers belonged to such families : the 
rest were very little trusted. Euripides 2 makes Achilles say 
that prophets at best utter many falsehoods and little truth. 
Xenophon, 3 in the person of the father of Cyrus, advises his 
readers to make themselves acquainted with the art of sooth- 

1 For instance, Anub. vii. 8, II. - Iph. Aul. 961. 

3 Cyrop. i. 6, 2. 


saying, that they may not be dependent on the lying prophets. 
It was a part of the duty of the magistrates called lepoTroiol, to 
look closely to the soothsayers, and Bee that they did not de- 
ceive people who came to them. Plato believed in sooth- 
saying, and terms it a means of cementing friendship between 
gods and men. 1 But of the persons who practised the art he 
had a very lew opinion, representing 2 them as "flocking to the 
rich man's doors, and trying to persuade him that they have 
a power at command, which they procure from heaven, and 
which enables them to make amends for any crime committed.' 3 
The interpreters of dreams enjoyed, even among soothsayers, an 
evil reputation for cheating and imposture. Notwithstanding 
all this, tlie disrepute of soothsayers did not cause men to give 
up their belief in soothsaying. Even the Stoics defended the 
mantic art, on the ground that if there be gods, and if they care 
for men, they must needs let men know th< j ir will by some dis- 
coverable means. 

Those soothsayers who had too little self-confidence to trust 
entirely to their own power of reading the future, or who 
wished to fortify themselves against attacks of scepticism, pro- 
cured some of the prophetic books which went under the names 
of Orpheus, Bacis, and the Sibyls, and other seers of old time, 
and applied the prophecies contained in them to the events 
going on. An excellent instance is furnished by the soothsayer 
who makes his appearance in the Birds of Aristophanes, at the 
inauguration of Cloudcuckootewn, and who is ignominiously 
beaten off the stage by Peithetorus. 3 This fellow enters, bear- 
ing a scroll of the prophecies of Bacis, on the strength of which 
he wishes to stop the sacrifices. His roguery is admirably 
depicted : the greed with which he tries to get clothes for him- 
self out of the superstition of Peithetaerus, the crookedness 
with which he perverts the meaning of words, and the 
effrontery with which, when his word La doubted, he bids his 
auditor look in the book for himself. The picture is a carica- 
ture, but evidently bom the life. Peithetaerus, too, shows 
something of the skill possessed by most great captains and 
rulers in Greece, in turning prophecies the way they wished 
tle-m to go. Of this faculty put to higher uses we may give a 
few instances. When Alexander the Great was at Delphi he 
wished the Pythia to give a response to him on an unusual day. 
She at first declined, but on his insisting, yielded with the 

1 Plato, Sympos. iSSc: <pi\ias deQiv ko.1 avdpwTrujv 5r)/juovpyo$. 
- Hepubl. 364. b. 3 L. 957. 


words, " Thou art irresistible," words which Alexander at once 
accepted as a prophecy of his future career. Timoleon, with 
his army in Sicily, met a train of asses laden with parsley. 
The soldiers were alarmed, thinking this an evil omen, because 
parsley was used at funerals ; but the general turned it to his 
own end by remarking that to a Corinthian the parsley of 
which the Nemean crowns were made was a sign of victory. 
But it would be a mistake to infer from such instances that 
soothsaying was merely a tool employed by statesmen for their 
own purposes. Many leaders of armies were as sincere in their 
belief in auguries as their men. Mcias always carried about 
with him a soothsayer, without whose advice he would not 
undertake anything. Pausanias at Plataea refused to order a 
charge, though his men were falling fast under the Persian 
arrows, until at last, as he raised his eyes to the Herseum and 
besought the aid of Hera, the aspect of the victims changed 
and became favourable. 

We have stated that soothsaying was a matter of profession 
rather than of inspiration ; and this is the secret of Greek 
soothsaying. Omens were drawn from such a variety of 
occurrences, and the interpretation of these occurrences re- 
quired such an exact knowledge of traditional rules, that no 
layman could master all the requisite details of knowledge. 
The Greeks expressly distinguished in divination the technical 
or rexvtKov from the arzyyov ; and it was the former which was 
by far the most usual and most important. And divination by 
art may again be divided accordingly as the omens which it 
explains are especially sought for, or present themselves un- 
sought, accordingly as the gods are asked by some recognised 
channel for their advice, or, unasked, send to mortals a token 
of their wishes. Oracles and inspection of the entrails of 
victims belong to the former class : these we will reserve, and 
speak first of omens spontaneously offered to men. 

Among such omens, the most important place belongs to those 
taken from birds. Indeed, in common language, any omen would 
be termed a bird. In Homer, we have Hector's noble saying, 

€t<5 01WV09 aptcrros dfxvvecrdaL irtpi iraTprjs, 

and Aristophanes rallies the Athenians for applying the word 
opvis to a sneeze, a sound, a servant, or an ass. Many reasons 
may be suggested for this predominance of birds as givers of 
omens. They haunt the upper air and live near the gods ; 
their motions are rapid and unexpected, and they seem, unlike 


animals, to utter their voice, not merely to communicate with 
oii(3 another, bat by some overflowing of life and energy. It 
has also been suggested that the weather-wisdom of birds and 
their appearance and departure as harbingers of the rise and 
fall of the year, may have encouraged the belief that they had 
a prophetic nature. Many kinds of birds were sacred to deities : 
the eagle to Zeus, the owl to Pallas, the raven to Apollo, and 
so forth. And in all countries it has been the mark of the 
divinely inspired man to understand what birds were saying. 

As the Greeks regarded the East, the quarter of sunrise, as 
the source of good fortune, and as in taking auguries they 
looked to the north, they regarded the appearance of a bird 
on the right as a good omen. Thus when Diomedes and 
Odysseus started for the Trojan camp, Pallas Athena sent a 
heron which flew on their right as a token of success. This 
was the simplest rule : others were far more complicated. The 
sounds uttered by birds as they flew was no less regarded than 
their flight, the exact character of which had to be minutely 
observed ; and every bird had its own special symbolism. 
The eagle was most fateful of birds, and the raven was 
especially noted for its prophetic character. But not all birds 
were fateful (kvaio-ifioi) ; in fact, it was a chief point in an 
augur's business to know when a bird brought an omen, and 
when it flew merely on its own affairs. According to the 
stories handed down, the omens given by birds were sometimes 
by no means obscure. The ancient writers record a number 
of instances in which an eagle settled on a standard, hovered 
over the head of a general, or carried off part of a victim laid 
on the altar of a deity. Of the method of interpretation of 
more obscure indications, we may judge from an Ephesian 
inscription, 1 or rather a fragment of one, which shows that 
account was made of the way the bird flew and which wing 
he showed uppermost. 

Astrology was unknown to the Greeks, until they learned it 
in the time of Berosus from the Chaldeans. But though the 
complicated calculations of that pseudo-science were unknown, 
the Greeks had a high opinion of the value of sudden appear- 
ances in the heavens as forecasts of fate. A flash of lightning 
with its accompanying thunder was naturally regarded as a 
signal direct from the ruler of lightning, Zeus. Hesiod, in 
relating the battle of Heracles and Cycnus, 2 says that Zeus 
sent a clap of thunder as an omen to his son. 

1 C, I. 2953. - Shield of Herach^ 1. 383. 



The meteors which cross the nightly sky were looked on as 
full of meaning, especially portending war and pestilence ; and 
a fortiori any unusual appearance in the heavens, or an earth- 
quake or inundation on the land, were portents requiring 
immediate application to a seer or to an oracle, in order to 
learn how the displeasure of heaven, which they indicated, 
might be averted by prayer and sacrifice. 

Any sudden or unusual noise was set down as an omen. To 
sneezing in particular prophetic meaning was attached. When 
a man was meditating an action or undertaking, any chance 
phrase heard by him was accepted as an omen of success or 
failure. Odysseus, 1 sleeping under the portico of his own 
house, listens to the women grinding at the mills ; and when 
he hears one of them pray for the destruction of the wooers, 
gladly accepts the omen as foreshadowing the success of his 
plans. When the Samian envoys were requesting King Leoty- 
chides to sail against the Persian fleet at Mycale, he asked the 
speaker his name, and hearing that it was Hegesistratus, ex- 
claimed at once, " I accept the omen," and insisted that the envoy 
should sail with his fleet as guide. 2 Thus the Greek, when his 
mind was on the alert and filled with any purpose, was listen- 
ing to all sounds and voices around him to judge of the issue. 
And at such times, and even in the course of ordinary life, he 
would be ready to alter a plan or abandon a project if certain 
things happened : if he stumbled on stepping over a threshold, 
or if he met an animal of ill omen, such as a hare, which was 
in bad repute, or found a snake, the companion of the dead, 
in his house. 

Dreams were also carefully remembered by those of a super- 
stitious turn, and carried for explanation to the professional 
interpreters of dreams, ovapoKpiTai, who, however, enjoyed a 
very bad reputation, and were notorious for their extortions 
from those who sought their aid. The opinion of the wise 
rather coincided with that of Homer, that deceitful dreams may 
come through the gate of ivory as often as trustworthy ones 
through the gate of horn. But when a dream bore obvious 
meaning, the wisest as well as the most pious of the Greeks 
considered that it should not without reason be despised or 
neglected. Aristotle 3 observed that in sleep the mind returns 
on itself and resumes its natural powers of foresight. Socrates 
is said 4 to have seen in a dream a beauteous woman, who told 

1 Od. xx. 112. - Herod, ix. 90. The name means army-leader. 

3 Ap. S. Emp. ad%\ Math. ix. 21. 4 Ctito, p. 44a. 


him that on the third day he should reach fertile Phthia, and 
to have unhesitatingly regarded the saying as an omen of his 
approaching death. Of dreams which appeared to public men 
and women and had their fulfilment, the history of Greece, like 
that of all other countries, is full ; and the dreams which did 
not correspond to the course of events have been buried under 
the stream of time. 

The number of ways in which a votary could deliberately, 
and of set purpose, consult the deities was very great. Setting 
aside the oracles, of which we shall speak presently, there were 
mancies without end : alphitomancy, which consisted in throwing 
meal into the fire, and examining the way in which it burned ; 
alectoromancy, which consisted in forming letters of grains of 
corn and letting fowls loose on them to see what their various 
fates would be ; all kinds of divination by water, and the like. 
In fact, any set of occurrences on which a man set his mind 
to observe them would be almost as fitting for revealing the 
future as any other to men who had but a rudimentary notion 
of law, and saw capricious acts of deities and daemons in all 
things. One of the simplest methods was to cast lots, the 
disposition of the lots as they fell being regarded as the direct 
work of the deities. 

The only important and systematic one among these mantic 
arts was that which concerned itself with sacrifices. Indeed, 
sacrifices Avere never offered without being carefully watched 
to see what they would reveal of the will of the gods. 
The way in which the smoke curled upwards was carefully 
regarded, as well as the form taken by the ashes lying on the 
altar. Prometheus in JEschylus l claims the invention of this 
as of other sorts of augury : — ■ 

<£Aoya)7ra cnjpLaTa 
e^oj/x/xaTaxxa -rrpocrdev ovt' eTrdpye/xa. 

More important, however, was the internal examination of 
the victim, especially of the liver, which varies considerably 
in various individuals. In this case also Prometheus claimed 
the honour of discovery : — 

o-irXayyyiJiv re XewrrjTa Kal xpotav riva 
tyovr'' av euq SatpLOcrtv 7rpbs r)8ovr)v, 
\o\r]S \o/3ov re TroiKtXi]v tvjxop^iav. 

This art is not Homeric. Whence it w T as derived we do not 
1 Prom. Vine. 1. 506. 

2 6o CULTUS 

know, but it was carried in Greece, if not quite so far as among 
the Romans, yet into all public and important sacrifices. When 
an army marched, or crossed a river or boundaries of territory, 
or was about to engage in battle, a regular sacrifice was made 
for the purpose of obtaining omens ; and religious leaders such 
as the Spartan kings would at once halt if the omens were 
unfavourable. It would seem, however, that in many cases 
they merely continued the sacrifices until the appearance of 
the entrails was such as satisfied their advisers ; a result which, 
it would seem, could only be a question of time. 

We must distinguish, in speaking of Greek oracles, two 
strongly contrasted classes of them. The first class consists 
of those oracles in which there was merely a systematic taking 
of omens; the second class consists of the oracles, mostly 
Apolline, where a distinct answer was supposed to be given by 
some divine power to questions addressed to it. To these we 
may add, as a third class, oracles given in dreams. 

The oracles of the first sort were probably older in origin, 
certainly more simple in their working. An oracle of this 
kind, which we may call an oracle by omen, though it does 
not conveniently come under the term "oraculum," which implies 
a voice, is quite well included under the Greek term fxavrclov, 
since here also /xavTets were employed, and directions obtained 
as to future conduct. An omen-oracle would at once arise 
as soon as any of the kinds of divination came to be practised 
at a particular temple or sacred spot under the direction of 
the priests who presided there. A code of interpretation 
would be fixed by tradition, and constantly grow in complete- 
ness and detail; and a few fortunate responses might spread 
the fame of the oracular shrine far and wide. 

We hear of certain places where the inspection of entrails 
was carried on so systematically, and made to furnish so 
definite information, that these places ranked among Greek 
oracles. Pindar 1 speaks of the /3w^bs [lavrtlos of Olympia, 
and again of the place at Olympia where soothsayers inquire 
of the thunderer Zeus, taking omens from sacrifices. These 
soothsayers at Olympia were the sacred race of the Iamidse, 
whose skill was so noted that Olympia became a sort of oracle 
at which they presided, giving their responses in the heroon 
of Iamus, their mythical ancestor. Naturally, most inquiries 
at this prophetic shrine came from competitors in the games 
or their friends, who asked as to the chances of success ; but 

1 01. vi. 6 : viii. ^5. 


we hear of formal requests of advice from states, especially 
the Lacedaemonians. Agesipolis is said by Xenophon 1 to have 
inquired of Zeus at Olympia whether he was at liberty to 
invade the Argive territory at a season held by the Argives 
to be sacred, and when he received a favourable answer, passed 
on the question to the higher authority of Delphi. 

The oracle of the Palici in Sicily, which, however, does not 
seem to have been of Greek origin, was consulted in a peculiar 
manner. In their temple were two pools agitated by volcanic 
springs. If a person accused of some crime wished to purge 
himself, he wrote a vow declaring his innocence on a tablet, 
and threw it into one of the pools ; if it swam he was con- 
sidered to be justified, but if it sank he stood condemned. 
Volcanic fire was watched for omens at Apollonia, in Epirus, 
and elsewhere. In the agora of Pharse in Achaia was a very 
peculiar oracle of Hermes. 2 The votary entered the shrine 
of the god, presented to him a coin and other offerings, and 
whispered his question into the ear of the statue. Then 
pressing his hands over his ears, he left the spot. Passing out 
of the agora, he unstopped his ears and took the first words 
which he heard as the answer to his inquiry. At Bura in 
Achaia was an oracle, where Heracles was consulted by means 
of lots which were cast by the votary : lots were also used in 
the temples of Athena Sciras. But oracles by lots were re- 
garded as very untrustworthy, and not to be compared with 
the sacred responses of Apollo. 

Of all omen-oracles, by far the most notable was that of Zeus 
at Dodona. Homer speaks of the Selli as priests at Dodomv 
and the word x a f JL(lL€ ^ va h which he applies to them, has been 
supposed to imply that they gave responses by the aid of 
dreams ; but this is very unlikely. Rather we should regard 
the word, and that which accompanies it, dvt7rro7ro8es, as in- 
dicating a rude and uncultivated life, almost resembling that 
of prophets or dervishes in the East. M. Carapanos, in his 
very fruitful excavations in Epirus, has succeeded in identifying 
the site of the temple of Zeus Naius and Dione, and has even 
brought to light a number of tablets, inscribed with questions 
put to the deity, though he did not discover any certain 
specimen of an oracular response. The inquirers were obliged 
to put their questions in writing ; and it appears that the 
leaden tablets on which they were written are intended by 

1 Hell. iv. 7, 2. 2 Pans. vii. 22. 3. 

> Dodona, either in Epirus or Thessaly. See above, Bk. ii. ch. 5. 


Cicero by the word sortes, 1 in a passage which has been mis- 
understood to assert the existence at Dodona of oracles by 
lottery. The votaries usually began with the formula, are/aon-a 
tov Aia tov Naibv kou rav Aiwvav or €7rLK0Lvrjrai tw Ail tw 
Na'/'ct) Kol ra Aiwva (" So and so consults Zeus Naius and 
Dione "), and then proceeded to state their question. In the 
matter of inquiry, we find the widest variety. The Tarentines 
seek information, Trepl iravrvx^, with regard to general pros- 
perity. A people of Epirus seek to be shown how security 
may be procured to them through alliance with the Molossi. 
The Corcyreans ask (it reads almost like a bitter jest) to what 
god or hero they shall sacrifice, in order to secure the blessings 
of internal harmony. Such are the public inquiries of cities 
and states. Those of individuals are more numerous and more 
definite. Certain persons ask which of three courses will be 
most profitable to them — to go to Elina or to Anactorium, or 
to effect a certain sale. Another consults the gods, whether 
he shall purchase a town-house and a farm. Agis asks as to 
certain mattresses and pillows which he has lost, and which 
he supposes to have been stolen by some stranger. One 
Lysanias asks whether he is really the father of a child of 
which Annyla expects to be delivered. A tradesman wishes 
to know whether he will be successful if he adopts a new 
trade, the nature of which he supposes the god to know 
intuitively, in addition to his present one. A capitalist asks 
whether sheep-farming will turn out a good investment. Hera- 
cleidas prays for good fortune, and asks whether he shall have 
any other child beside iEgle. One Eubander inquires to 
what god or hero he shall sacrifice, in order to ensure continued 
prosperity to himself and his house. 

All these questions, couched in rough and uncouth dialectic 
forms, and full of false grammar, yet survive, and bring vividly 
before us the hopes and fears, the beliefs and the manners 
of a past age. The questions put to the gods are not merely 
those which we should put to a trusted priest, but those which 
we should put to a physician, a lawyer, or a stockbroker. The 
rude races who dwelt around stormy Dodona, Epirotes, iEtolians, 
and the like, evidently preserved an unshaken belief in the 
deities of their ancestors down to the end of Greek autonomy. 
It is, however, unfortunate that these tablets do not furnish 

1 Be Divin. i. 34, 76. The oracle-inscriptions of Dodona are treated 
of, by Mr. Roberts, in the first volume of the Journal of Hellenic Studies, 
in an article from which I here borrow considerably. 


us with any information as to the method in which responses 
were given by the oracle at Dodona. Two or three of the 
tablets rescued by M. Carapanos may perhaps contain answers 
to questions, but none of them, unfortunately, is sufficiently 
well preserved to make us sure. One begins in a promising 
way, ToSe to fuivrrjiov eyw XPV 10 ) but ^ hreaks off at that 
point. Some of the questions seem to require an exact and 
a detailed reply, such as could not be gained by ordinary 
omens, unless interpreted by skilled soothsayers. Indeed, 
we may feel sure that the actual responses handed to the 
applicants were drawn up by experienced officials of the 
temple. This function was probably assigned to the 7reAeta8es, 
aged priestesses, who succeeded the Selli of Homer's time, if, 
indeed, these last did not belong to a Thessalian Dodona. 

The ancient writers are not very clear or consistent in their 
account of the Dodonsean oracle. But we can include the 
best part of their testimony, if we suppose that the oracle 
was really given by the oak or oaks of Zeus, through a 
murmuring sound and a waving of branches, but that this 
testimony was interpreted to mankind by the 7reAei<xSes. This 
is the account given by Suidas, 1 and it is quite conformable 
to the lines of Sophocles — 

o>S T7]V iraXaLav cfryiybv avSyjcrai ttot€ 
A(o6\oVi 8i(rcra)V €K 7reAeia6\jv!e</«7, 

nor does it conflict with the expression of iEschylus, at 
TrpoarjyopoL Spves. 2 Plato 3 speaks of the priestesses of Dodona 
as speaking in a certain ecstasy like those of Delphi, but his 
words need not be pressed ; or they may show that the Peleiades 
underwent some preparatory stimulus, before being considered 
fit to collect the responses of the prophetic tree. Servius 4 
has again another story, that the responses were really given 
by a stream which ran from the foot of the oak. This may 
be a perversion of the circumstance that the priestesses drank 
from a sacred and inspiring stream before they prophesied. 
It is, however, certain that there were other means of taking 
omens in use at Dodona. The Corcyreans dedicated a bronze 
vessel, over which was a male figure holding a whip, to which 
astragali were attached. In the wind these astragali struck 
the vessel ; and omens were taken from the kind of noise 
thus made on particular occasions. 

1 i. p. 623. 2 Prom. V. 1. 851. 

:{ Phcedrus, p. 244k 4 Ad JEn. iii. 466. 


The Greeks, though generally sceptical as regards the appear- 
ance of inspiration, tolerated it in connection with the great 
seats of Apolline oracles, where it was a recognised institution. 
But even at Delphi, Delos, and Didyma, means were taken 
to prevent the influence of the impassioned utterances of the 
priestesses from being too direct or too great ; and the responses 
which have come down to us are marked by anything rather 
than fanaticism and insanity. 

Strabo l describes accurately the seat of the oracle at Delphi. 
This was a deep cave within the adytum of the temple of 
Apollo, a thousand feet above the sea, with an opening of no 
great width, out of which rose a vapour which had a certain 
entrancing or intoxicating power. Over this entry was placed 
a tripod on which, on the set days for giving responses, the 
Pythia sat, and after inhaling the gas, became inspired, giving 
answers to all questions put to her. To the inhaling of gas 
mentioned by Strabo, Lucian 2 adds the drinking from the sacred 
spring, and the mastication of laurel-leaves. There can be no 
doubt that these preparations had a strong physical effect on 
the priestess, affecting her health and even her reason, for she 
gave responses but seldom ; and we read of at least one instance 
in which a Pythia became mad during the performance of her 

In early times responses were given apparently but once a 
year, in the month Eysius ; but as the demand increased, the 
supply also became greater, and in the flourishing times of 
Greece, responses were given frequently, though there were in 
every month certain days on which the oracle could not be 
consulted. At one time no less than three priestesses were 
employed. In the days of Plutarch only one day in the month 
was set apart for oracular responses. The priestess then was, as 
he tells us, a young woman, daughter of poor but respectable 
cottagers, and of unblemished reputation. The persons who 
came to consult the god were ranged in order, those being- 
preferred who might have acquired the right of precedence. 
Sacrifices were offered by the Delphic priests, and if these gave 
unfavourable results, nothing was done. If on the other hand 
the bodies of the victims gave favourable omens, the priestess 
carefully purified herself, and took her seat on the tripod after 
the preparations already mentioned. The officials, irpo<f>iJTai, 
received the questions of the votaries, conveyed either by word 
of mouth, or, as we rather judge by the Dodonsean analogy, in 

2 Bis Accus. c. 2. 


writing, and put them to the god, who delivered an answer hy 
the mouth of the Pytliia, an answer sometimes put into words, 
hut sometimes consisting as it would seem in mere exclamations 
and sounds without coherence. In either case the Tvpo^i'jTt)^ 
had to judge of the sense of it, and to put it into hexameter 
verse, in which form it was delivered to the votary. This was 
the earlier custom ; hut Cicero 1 observes that after the time of 
Pyrrhus the god spoke in prose ; and we possess the text of a 
Pythian oracle delivered to the people of Cyzicus and written in 
prose. 2 

It is evident that in speaking of the Delphic oracle we must 
carefully distinguish between the actual response delivered on 
behalf of the god by his ecstatic priestess and the formal answer 
handed by the priests to the votaries. That the transports of 
the Pytliia were unfeigned is shown by many details of the 
tales which have come down to us, her unwillingness to ascend 
the prophetic tripod, and the injury suffered by her health in 
the process. But it is not so easy to decide what latitude the 
priests of Apollo allowed themselves in setting in order the 
disjointed cries of the raging priestess. Some modern writers 
represent them as a school of statesmen who understood better 
than any one beside the essence of Greek religion and the true 
policy of states, and made use, for the good of Greece, of the 
ravings of the Pythia, in order to attach a divine sanction to 
their wise recommendations. But there is little evidence of 
the existence at Delphi of a clique endowed with superhuman 
wisdom ; nor is it in accordance with what Ave know of human 
nature to think that any clique or school could carry on for age 
after age a system of organised imposture from the best and 
most disinterested motives. It is more reasonable to think 
tli at the priests also were in most cases honest, delivering to 
the votaries what they held to be the real opinion of the deity, 
though of course expectations as to what the deity was likely 
to say would exercise some sway over their minds, and they 
too might suppose themselves the subjects of a not less real 
though a more measured inspiration than that of the Pythia 
herself. It is hard to believe that a system not really genuine 
could gain so much influence in Greece, and act so often for 
good ; so that the greatest sons of Greece, Plato and Socrates, 
Aristotle, and even Diogenes the Cynic, recognised in the 
Pythian responses the very voice of God, and were willing 
to be guided by it in matters of life and death. 

1 De Divin. ii. 56. 2 Bull. Corr. Hell. iv. 473. 


There were several other oracles which, if less noted than 
that of Delphi, were of great reputation in their own districts. 
They were based, like the Delphic oracle, on the interpretation 
by priests of words uttered by a female servant of Apollo in 
a state of delirium. In details only we find variety. At 
Hysise in Boeotia, 1 there was a sacred well of Apollo, which 
gave those who drank of it power of prophecy ; at Argos, 2 the 
priestess of the Pythian Apollo delivered responses once a 
month after tasting the blood of a lamb, which was sacrificed 
for the purpose ; at Didyma near Miletus, the mere fumes 
of the sacred spring were said to be sufficient to cause the 
prophetic frenzy in the priestess. At the oracle of the Clarian 
Apollo, near Colophon, the responses were given directly by the 
priest, who belonged to a particular family. He heard only 
the numbers and names of those who came to consult the 
deity, then retired into a cave, drank the water of a sacred 
spring, and straightway gave utterance to the divine response, 
speaking, it was said, in hexameter verse, though usually 
too illiterate to compose verses in his sane condition. This 
answer was directed to the question in the mind of the votary ; 
and we learn from Tacitus 3 that Germanicus consulted this 
oracle, which truly foretold his speedy death. At Patara in 
Lycia the priestess of Apollo was shut up in the temple all 

Oracles by dreams were more common as an institution of 
certain cults in the later days of Greece. Probably the custom 
was of chthonic origin, sleeping on the earth being a means 
of putting oneself in communication with those who dwelt 
beneath it, the spirits of the dead and their ruler Hades. But, 
in fact, it was most commonly practised in connection with the 
temples of Asklepius, more particularly the great temples of 
Epidaurus and Pergamon. The sick were not, however, 
allowed to approach the deity at once. They had first to 
stay at the temples and undergo such regimen of baths and 
food as the priests chose to prescribe. As the temples of 
Asklepius were in salubrious situations, and usually in posses- 
sion of a good supply of fresh water, and as the priests were 
sometimes not unversed in the practice of medicine, we may 
conjecture that the health of the patients did not suffer by 
this delay. Then after appropriate sacrifices and prayers, they 
were admitted to sleep in the temple, and await the further 
commands of the god in a dream which seldom failed to visit 

1 Paus. ix. 2, I. 2 Paus. ii. 24, I. 3 Ann. ii. 54. 


them. They told the dream to the priests, who were able to 
interpret it for them. A full account of the process is given 
by Aristides. Dream-oracles belonged also, however, to other 
temples. In the heroon of Calchas and in that of Podaleirius 
son of Asklepius at Tricca in Thessaly, votaries slept on the 
skins of victims and received divine responses in their dreams. 
A celebrated dream-oracle was that of the temple of Amphiaraus 
in r>ceotia, where the future was revealed, not only for cure of 
diseases, but in other matters also. The votaries 1 had to 
undergo purification, and sacrifice to a number of deities, in- 
cluding Achelous and Cephissus. They had to abstain from 
wine for three days and fast for one ; then a ram was sacrificed 
to the hero, and on his skin the inquirer slept in the heroon. 
If by the advice of the seer he was freed from a disease, he 
cast a coin of gold or silver into the sacred well. 

The prophetic power was attributed to many deceased 
worthies, and exercised at their graves in various ways, more 
especially by such as had in their lifetime been gifted with 
knowledge of the future. Teiresias at Orchomenus, Mopsus in 
Cilicia, Amphilochus, and others were frequently consulted. 
The most celebrated oracle of this class was the noted cave of 
Trophonius, a visit to which is described in detail by Pau- 
sanias, 2 who had himself consulted the oracle. It appears that 
those who came to consult Trophonius lodged certain days in a 
temple of Agathos Daemon and Agathe Tyche, daily sacrificing 
and regularly consulting the entrails of the victims, to judge 
whether the Hero was willing to receive them. After some 
stay, provided the omens were favourable, a day was set for the 
initiation. On that day a fresh and more solemn sacrifice was 
made, and unless every sign in it were propitious nothing was 
done. But if it clearly appeared that Trophonius was willing 
to receive the suppliant, he was taken to two springs, which 
rose by the cave and were called the waters respectively of 
Lethe and of Mnemosyne ; of both he drank, that he might 
forget things past and remember the things he was about 
to see. He was then conducted to the abode of Trophonius, 
which was not properly a cave, but a pit some seven feet 
across and fourteen deep, not natural, Pausanias says, but 
made carefully by art. Into this pit the votary descended 
by means of a narrow ladder. In the side of it was an 

1 Philostr. Vit. Apol. ii. 37. This work may fairly be quoted in relation 
to a Greek shrine, where the truth was easily ascertainable. 

2 i x -.39- 

2 68 CULTUS 

opening some two spans wide and one high, into which, hold- 
ing in either hand a cake kneaded with honey, he inserted 
himself feet foremost ; and no sooner were his knees within the 
orifice than he was borne away with incredible swiftness, as if 
by a rushing river. Over what thereafter happened, Pausanias 
draws the veil of a discreet silence. " All," he says, " learn not 
the future in the same manner : to some it is revealed by sight 
and to some by sound." Then the votary returned again to the 
upper air, feet foremost, through the same hole through which he 
had entered. The priests received him, and made him recount 
all dazed and terrified what had happened to him. One man 
only, says Pausanias, lost his life in the cave : he was a soldier 
of Demetrius who entered without due sacrifice, and from 
motives of base cupidity, and whose dead body was found lying 
in another place outside the cave. 

The whole account is remarkable, and witnesses to the clear- 
ness of Pausanias' observation and his accuracy in narration. 
A modern can scarcely avoid the suspicion that this oracle 
must have been an imposture contrived by a sacerdotal caste. 
AVe should suppose either that the votary remained in the 
pit all the while, dazed and stupefied by some fumes rising 
from the hole, and seeming in his vertigo to be carried to 
great distances ; or else he was drawn by some subtle con- 
trivance of the priests into subterranean chambers, and there 
made to hear and to see whatever they chose to arrange ; 
and this last view derives support from the rule that he must 
carry a cake in each hand, and so be unable to feel about him 
as he was borne away. The murder of the guard of Demetrius 
would be a necessary measure of self -protection on the part 
of those in charge of the place. All that Pausanias tells as 
to the origin of the oracle, which was established by one man 
in historical times, seems to bear out the view that in this 
case we have to do with a sacrilegious imposture. But it 
is not fair to argue from the suspicious character of this late 
and comparatively obscure oracle that the same nature adhered 
to other oracles. Every true thing in the world has a false 
thing which follows it as night follows day. It no more 
follows from the fact of one oracle being an imposture that 
all were such, than it follows because there are false Gospels 
that all Gospels are false, or that because we have illusions 
of vision all sight is illusion. 




To our account of Greek gymnastics, we add here a brief 
account of the public games of Greece, for which gymnastic 
training was to a large extent a preparation. 

In Greece proper, there were four greater festivals, protected 
by a sacred truce (eKex^pa), and frequented by Greeks from 
all parts of the .Mediterranean. These were the Olympia, 
Pythia, Isthmia, and Nemea, victors in all of which are 
commemorated in the verses of Pindar. But if we count the 
lesser games celebrated at the various cities of Greece, the 
number will be greatly increased. Indeed, if A\ r e include the 
various Agones introduced in the wealthy cities of Asia from 
the time of Alexander onward, we may reckon that there were 
several hundreds of them, and that a Greek athlete in later 
times might have spent his whole life in passing from one 
to another. At these less honourable games the prize was 
no longer a mere wreath, but as in the days of Homer, objects 
of value, vases and cups, which are frequently represented on 
later Greek monuments. The professional athlete or pot- 
hurder made his appearance, and succeeded in utterly ruining 
the reputation and perverting the purposes of the Greek 

It will be convenient here to take the Olympic contest as 
the type of all others. 1 Indeed, on it most of the rest were 
modelled, with one important addition. At Olympia there 
was no musical contest ; while at all three of the other great 
dywves crr€<£av6Tai, music was one subject of competition. 
Contests between avXtjrat and between KiOapurraL were a 
feature of the Nemea and Isthmia, while at the Pythia 
musical competitions were the oldest and most important 
feature of the meeting. In the first Pythia, at which the 
Amphictyons presided, there was a contest in KiQapufiia, or 
singing to the accompaniment of the lyre, in avXipSia, or singing 
to the flute, and in flute-playing without singing. Strabo 2 
speaks of a UvOlkos vo/xos, wherein the performers on cithara 
and flute attempted to give a musical rendering of that victory 

1 A more complete account of Olympia and its festival may be found in 
my New Chapters in Greek History, chap. ix. - ix. p. 421. 


of Apollo over the Python which the games were supposed to 
commemorate ; and it would appear that the competitors were 
confined to that subject. 

The importance to Greek religion of the Olympic contest has 
been already discussed. At first the contest is said to have 
been in running only, and the festival can have lasted but a 
few hours. But by degrees other competitions were added, 
one by one, until it occupied five complete days. Pausanias 
says that one day was found sufficient until the 7 7th Olympiad ; 
after which the time was extended, it being found that dark- 
ness came on before the contests were at an end. 

The sacred truce, eKexei/oia, lasted one month, and the con- 
tests lasted from the nth to the 15th of that month, in order 
to allow the spectators full time to go to and return from 
Olympia in peace and safety, as they nocked from all parts 
of Greece. The roads which led from Olympia into Arcadia, 
and thence into the rest of Greece, as well as the sacred road 
to Pyrgus, the haven of Elis, were thronged with a motley 
crowd. The remarkable feature of this crowd would certainly 
be the absence of women ; but it would include men of the 
most diverse kinds. The merchant with his goods, the poet 
with his works, the juggler with his apparatus all looked to 
find an audience among the crowd at Olympia. Here would 
ride a wealthy father from Syracuse or Croton, whose son was 
already on the spot in training for some contest ; and beside 
him would walk a sick man who had vowed a pilgrimage to 
the shrine of the greatest of Greek gods, or an anxious youth 
hoping to learn amid the throng tidings of a brother who had 
left his home for a voyage many months before, and had not 
since been heard of. At intervals might be discerned groups 
of delegates, Oecopot, for many of the Greek cities despatched 
a group of envoys to represent them officially on the occasion. 
These would travel in chariots or on horseback with a train of 
slaves, and, amid their baggage would be not only whatever 
might tend to make their own appearance more splendid, but 
also handsome vessels or statues to be set up in the treasuries 
at Olympia, and dedicated to Zeus, as well as copies, on tablets 
of stone or bronze, of treaties and decrees to which they wished 
to direct the eyes of all Greece. 

Properly speaking there was no town at Olympia, 1 only the 
Altis or sacred enclosure, which contained the temples of Zeus 
and the allied deities, the altars, and the statues ; and beside 

1 See plan, p. 171. 


the Altis the great Gymnasium, the Hippodrome, the Stadium, 
and various offices. At all events there was no town at all 
capable of accommodating the vast crowd of strangers. Tents 
were therefore erected all about the plain, giving it the appear 
ance of a great fair or encampment. The days immediately 
preceding the nth of the month were spent in sacrifices on the 
part of the delegates (Otupol), the competitors, and the authori- 
ties of Elis. This time also, as well as that which followed 
the actual celebration of the games, was the great opportunity 
for merchants, poets, painters, and all who had wares to which 
they wished to attract public attention. During the five great 
days no one would have leisure to attend to them. 

On the nth, long before daybreak, every point commanding 
a good view of the stadium was occupied. The Olympian 
festival was celebrated in the hottest time of the year ; the 
contests went on all through the heat of the day. The dust of 
Olympia was proverbial, and the honour of the god demanded 
that no spectator should wear a hat. Yet all day long the 
dense crowd stood about the places of trial, getting no rest 
from sunrise to sunset, and no food except such as each spectator 
could take with him in the morning. Nor were the spectators 
silent : with loud shouts each encouraged his friends or applauded 
skilful acts, or howled at any cowardice or cheating. It may 
be imagined that such a scene was unfitted for the secluded 
women of Greece. Nevertheless, though it is agreed on all 
hands that married women were not allowed as spectators at 
Olympia, yet some writers, on the authority of Pausanias, 1 
have maintained that virgins were present. This is in itself 
most unlikely ; and it is remarkable that no instance of the 
presence of a virgin can be adduced from Greek literature. 
The most that can be conceded is that possibly the young 
women of Elis or of some of the Dorian cities may have been 
assigned a place. 

The competitors in any contest were obliged to establish 
their Hellenic parentage, and the fact that they had been in 
training for ten months with a view to the games. If the 
Hellanodicse, who were the Elean magistrates intrusted with 
the control of the games, allowed their claims, the competitors 
were next obliged to be present at Elis for the thirty days 
immediately preceding the festival, and practise under the 
eyes and according to the direction of the Hellanodicse, who 
thus had the means of learning the respective merits of the 

1 vi. 20, 9. 


various athletes. At the end of that time the names of those 
entered for various contests were written on a white board, 
XtvKitifia, and suspended at Olympia. After this there was 
no retreat. Withdrawing was considered cowardly and not 
allowed ; indeed, it was visited by penalties as severe as those 
directed against bribery, or the taking of an unfair advantage 
over an opponent. If the number of competitors were too 
great for a single heat, they were divided by lot into several 
groups, Tenets. Boxers and wrestlers had to be drawn in pairs ; 
and thus, if the number of combatants was uneven, one of 
them must necessarily draw a bye. This fortunate person was 
called efaSpos, and he was naturally considered by the Greeks 
to have a far better chance of victory than the rest, because 
at the second stage of the contest he would be opposed fresh 
and unwounded to a wearied and battered adversary. 

As to the order of the contests at Olympia there is much 
doubt ; but it is fairly safe to consider that the order of 
succession was as a general rule the same as the order in which 
the competitions were introduced at Olympia, the contest of 
oldest standing coming first in order, and so on. 

The various contests of strength and skill in which the 
youth of Greece engaged are described briefly in the chapter 
(Book IV. ii.) which deals with physical training, in which 
chapter will also be found copies of the representations of 
athletic sports on Greek vases. 

The earliest of competitions was the o-tolSlov, the short- 
distance race ; and at every return of the festival this was 
the opening contest, and he who was victorious in it gave 
his name to the whole celebration, just as in certain circles 
in England years are mentioned by the name of the winner 
of the Derby. The fourteenth Olympiad witnessed the intro- 
duction of a longer race, the StavXos, in which the runners 
turned at the post at the end of the course and finished at 
the starting-point. Then followed the SoXt^os, in which they 
traversed the length of the course many times. Next were 
added wrestling, the TrevraOXov, and boxing, as to which we 
speak in more detail in the chapter on physical training. 
Boxing was by no means in favour at Sparta : the magistrates 
set their faces against that and the pancratium, not allowing 
their citizens to partake in a contest which seemed to them 
degrading. Few or no Laconian winners, either in boxing or 
the pancratium, are recorded ; while wrestling and the penta- 
thlum were quite at home at Sparta. 

In the 25 th Olympiad, the character of the celebration was 


entirely changed by the introduction of a race of quadriga} 
of horses. Hitherto there had been complete democracy at 
Olympia, and only agility and strength had distinguished man 
from man. But with the introduction of chariots the rich at 
once obtained means of distinction at the games through wealth 
alone ; and of course the next step was to think more of a 
victory with a chariot than of a personal success. "We find 
all the wealthiest nobles of Greece — Anaxilaus, Alcibiades, 
Dionysius, Gelon — eagerly competing with their teams at 
Olympia ; and the city, one of whose citizens was fortunate 
enough to win in the contest, not unfrequently records the 
triumph on its state issues of coins. The charioteer did not use 
a whip but a long pointed stake or goad, Kevrpov, with which 
he spurred on the horses, pricking them from behind. From 
all accounts which reach us we may judge that the victory in 
the chariot-race was not always to the swift ; in every race 
many or most of the chariots were wrecked either by rivals or 
in turning the goal ; and indeed if we consider that all chariots 
had to turn round the meta, it seems a wonder that any escaped. 
Pausanias 1 gives us an elaborate description of the Hippodrome 
at Olympia, the afacns of which was a careful contrivance, 
the invention of Clecetas. The 33rd Olympiad witnessed the 
introduction of the pancratium, irayKpdrtov, and the race on 
horseback, iWo) KeX-qn, the arrangements in regard to which 
closely resembled those of the chariot race. As to horse-racing, 
that is the same thing in all ages ; the Greeks, however, made 
a sharp turn requisite when the meta was reached, which would 
disconcert a modern jockey. Philip of Macedon won with the 
kcAtis, and on his coins, in commemoration of the event, we 
find an enormous horse ridden by a diminutive jockey. 

In the 37th Olympiad boys were first admitted to com- 
petition amongst themselves in running and wrestling ; in the 
38th Olympiad the pentathlum, and in the 41st boxing was 
extended to boys. In the 65th Olympiad the race for men 
in armour was introduced, o7tAitwv Spofios. This was a valuable 
preparation for actual war, training men to charge on the field. 
At first the competitors had to run encumbered with helmet, 
greaves, and shield ; but before long the two former pieces of 
armour were abandoned, and the shield alone retained. 

In the 70th Olympiad the 0177-7/1/17, or biga of mules, was ad- 
mitted to a new competition ; in the 71st the race called KaXirri 
was instituted, wherein the riders on horseback, who formed 


the competitors, leapt in the last lap from their horses and ran 
to the goal, holding them by the rein. Both of these competi- 
tions were again given up in the 84th Olympiad. 

In the 93rd celebration the race for bigae of horses was 
instituted ; in the 96th the contest of heralds and trumpeters ; 
in the 99th the race for quadrigae of colts; in the 128th the 
race for bigae of colts; in the 131st the colt race; in the 145th 
the pancratium for boys. 

Of many of these contests we may find vivid and truthful 
representations on the vases which were bestowed on the 
victors in the Panathenaea and other contests. 

At the conclusion of the contest, the name of each winner, 
and that of the city which claimed him as a citizen, was recited 
with loud voice by a herald ; and the Hellanodicae placed on his 
head the crown of wild olive, which was the greatest object of 
ambition of every Greek youth. Then all the victors were enter- 
tained at a banquet by the magistrates of Elis ; and amid heca- 
tombs and sacrifices of thanksgiving the festival came to an end. 

On approaching his own city the young victor was received 
in a manner well fitted to turn his head. Sometimes a part of 
the wall was thrown down that he might enter by a new and 
unused door. All the town kept festival ; and as his cortege 
approached, singing some strain which a lyric poet had com- 
posed for the occasion, it was pelted with flowers and over- 
whelmed with plaudits, and solid rewards were added to the 
fame. At Athens the Olympic victor had a right to live at the 
public expense in the Prytaneium ; at Sparta he had the no less 
valued right of fighting near the person of the king. The 
statues of victorious men, victorious horses, and successful 
chariots were set up at Olympia, and in the cities to which 



We have already spoken of mystic sacrifices, the object of 
which was to establish a relation between worshipper and 
worshipped through the death or blood of a sacrifice. There 
is, however, another means of attaining the same end, which is 
familiar to barbarous races, in the practice of certain hidden 
and sacred rites, combining purification with the partaking of 
a sacred meal, and with dances or dramatic representations. 


Mysteries of this kind, retaining much of barbarous rite, 
yet capable of being filled with higher meaning and becoming 
a worthy part of religion, existed in many parts of Greece. By 
far the most important of them were the Mysteries of Eleusis, 1 
originating, probably in pre-Hellenic times, in an agricultural 
festival, but gradually developed, under the influence of Athens, 
into one of the most important features of Greek religion, and 
the great stronghold in Hellas of the doctrine of a life beyond 
the grave. 

At Athens there were greater and lesser Mysteries ; the 
lesser conducted at the temple of the Great Goddesses at Agrse, 
a suburb of Athens, in the time of spring ; the greater celebrated 
at Eleusis, in the month Boedromion, near to the time for sow- 
ing seed. The lesser Mysteries were regarded as a necessary 
preliminary for those who wished to be initiated at Eleusis ; 
but of their course we know scarcely anything. As to the 
greater, we are better informed. Their details were entirely 
under the control of a body of magistrates who must belong 
to certain patrician houses. The highest officer was the Upo- 
cfidvTiis, who is frequently mentioned by ancient writers as 
having supreme control. There were certain parts of the Eleu- 
sinian precinct, into which he alone had the right to penetrate ; 
and he was supposed to know more than any one else of the 
secret wisdom of the Mysteries, some part of which he com- 
municated to the initiated in a series of short and obscure 
sentences uttered from time to time during the ceremonies. 
He also in the sacred dramas which were, as we shall see, 
among the principal features of the ceremonies, sustained the 
most important part. He was taken necessarily from among 
the descendants of Eumolpus, and was accorded, even in civil 
life, peculiar honours,* such as the right of wearing a purple 
diadema. It is evident that on his character depended in a 
great degree that of the whole Mysteries. True there were 
certain sacred books, religiously preserved, which gave directions 
which even the Hierophant was not at liberty to neglect, as to 
the ritual to be followed. But it is likely that these books 
dealt only with outward form : such at least is certainly the 
character of the inscription found at Andania, and regulating 
the procedure at the Mysteries held at that city. But the 
whole tone of the celebration and the meaning of the ceremonies 
rested with him to determine ; so when we learn that in late 

1 An account of the sanctuary of Eleusis and the Mysteries there 
celebrated will be found in Neio Chapters in Greek History, chap. xiv. 


days the Hierophant was on more than one occasion a ISTeo- 
Platonist, we can easily imagine that he would turn the cele- 
bration to quite other purposes than those for which it was 
instituted. As his colleague he had the Hierophantis chosen 
from the families of the Eumolpidae or Philleidae, who must be 
of chaste reputation and advanced age, and who in the dramas 
probably represented Demeter or her daughter. Next in dignity 
to this pair came the Torch-bearers, SaSov^oi, male and female, 
who were in early times taken from the family of Triptolemus, 
but afterwards, that race having become extinct, from that of 
Lycomedes. These officials conducted the crowds of votaries, 
and instructed them in many matters. Other important officers 
were the herald, Krjpv£, the €7rt/3w/zios or sacrificer, and the 
eponymous priestess of Demeter ; and there were a number of 
minor officials. In addition each intending celebrant had to 
join himself to the company of a mystagogus, that is, a person 
of standing who had been himself initiated, and who both 
prepared his clients for the ceremony, and in person conducted 
them through it. The police was maintained by the UpoTroioi 
and other sacred officers of the Republic, under the supreme 
control of the Archon-Basileus ; and all persons committing 
any act of sacrilege during the celebration was punished with 
extreme severity, sometimes even being put to death on the 
spot if captured flagrante delicto. The memorable instance of 
Alcibiades shows how deeply the Athenian people resented any 
attempt to desecrate their much-loved Mysteries. 

Initiation was originally confined as a privilege to Athenians, 
or even to a narrower circle. Bat this exclusiveness was after- 
wards relaxed, and persons of good Hellenic parentage found 
no difficulty in procuring admission. Persians were pointedly 
excluded, as well as slaves, and all persons branded with 
infamy or stained with crime. Women, however, were ad- 
mitted as freely as men ; indeed, a well-born Athenian of either 
sex would scarcely fail to undergo the rite. Socrates was 
reproached for being almost the only Athenian who had not 
applied. Candidates for initiation, ixvo-toll, were required to 
observe certain dietetic rules. These were, however, based 
less on ethical principle than on ceremonial grounds. They 
had to abstain from chickens, fish of some sorts, beans, pome- 
granates, and apples. The priests had carefully to avoid the 
contamination arising from a corpse, or from certain animals 
reputed unclean. It was required of the Hierophant that 
during the festival he should live apart from his wife. But 
the most rigorous provisions were those which exacted from 


priests and mystse alike absolute secrecy as to all the details 
of the festival. The penalty of death was provided against 
any one who failed to preserve the secret ; but it was seldom 
inflicted, for it was seldom merited. The works of art of the 
Greeks are as reserved on the subject as their writings; and 
Demosthenes could declare that it was not possible for those 
who had not been initiated at Eleusis to learn by hearsay 
anything which went on there. 

The * local tradition at Eleusis assigned the origin of the 
mysteries there to Eumolpus, one of the traditional Thracian 
seers and poets who were supposed to have so largely influenced 
Greek religious thought. And this may suggest the question 
whether they were not influenced from Phrygia, where dwelt 
a people kindred to the Thracian, and distinguished among the 
races of antiquity by their devotion to great chthonic goddesses. 
This view is advocated by Mr. Ramsay in the Encyclopedia 
Britannic a (Mysteries). In that case they would exhibit a 
fragment of the religion of Asia Minor adopted and purified 
by the Athenians. To trace fully the growth of this cultus 
from stage to stage, until from an obscure local worship it 
became one celebrated throughout the civilised world, would 
not be possible in the absence of ancient testimony. The 
cause of that growth was without doubt the close connection 
of Eleusis with Athens, and the adoption by the latter city of 
Eleusinian beliefs and legends. M. Lenormant 2 considers that 
we can trace three successive periods in the history of the 
Eleusinian Mysteries. The first is represented by the Homeric 
hymn to Demeter, and during its continuance the ceremonies 
were altogether of a commemorative kind. The abduction of 
Cora, the wanderings and grief of her mother, the interference 
of the higher powers, and finally the partial restoration of the 
lost one were all brought before the eyes of the initiated ; and 
at the same time it is likely that these scenes were explained 
as relating to the hiding of seed in the earth and its rising in 
spring, phenomena the explanation of which occupies much of 
the religious thought of many primitive peoples. The name of 
Iacchus does not occur in the hymn, and its omission has been 
variously explained. But it is only in the second period of 

1 A considerable part of the following pages is taken from my New 
Chapters in Greek History, with the permission of the publisher, Mr. John 

- Contemporary Review, 1880. The writer speaks with especial authority 
on this subject, having been engaged in excavations at Eleusis, and being 
versed in the obscurer elements of Greek cult. 


Kleusinian history that Iacchus takes an important place. This 
period begins early indeed, but subsequently to the Homeric 
hymn. In it we trace the gradual intrusion of orgiastic and 
Dionysiac rites, Iacchus being identified with Bacchus, and 
that deity taking his place at Eleusis as husband or as son of 
Persephone. The third period may begin about the time of 
Alexander the Great, and is marked by the adoption at Eleusis, 
under the influence of the school of religion called by the 
name of Orpheus, of the strange Cretan legend of Zagreus, and 
the Oriental rites which belong to that deity, the chthonic 
Dionysus. These are the rites which caused so much scandal 
in Greece, and which, when they spread into Campania, were 
put down by the strong hand of the Roman Republic. Not 
that the Eleusinian rites ever became really licentious or in- 
decent : their close connection with all that was respectable at 
Athens saved them from that. But the cultus of Zagreus 
found a home at Eleusis, and his legend was closely connected 
with that of the Great Goddesses. Only it was explained away 
in spiritual and non-natural fashion, and was even made edifying 
by having put into it the promise of future life beyond the 
grave. We might perhaps distinguish a fourth period, when 
neo-Platonic philosophers were hierophantse, and the doctrines 
of Eleusis were developed by the pagans as a parallel and 
counterpoise to those of the Christian Church. 

In the Mysteries of Eleusis four acts were distinguished : (1) 
Kadapons, the preliminary purification ; (2) owrao-is, the rites 
and sacrifices which preceded and prepared the way for the 
actual celebration ; (3) TeXcrrj or /xvrycrcs, the initiation properly 
so called ; and (4) e7ro7rreia, the last and highest grade of initia- 
tion. The last two of these stages alone were of private and 
mysterious nature ; at the first two the whole populace assisted 
freely. The whole festival was protected by a sacred truce, 1 
proclaimed, like that in connection with the Olympian festival, 
by public heralds. During the earlier part of the Peloponnesian 
war, the Spartans respected this truce ; but after the renewal 
of hostilities and the occupation of Deceleia, they stopped for 
many years the procession of mystae to Eleusis. 

We learn from an inscription 2 of the age of Hadrian, that 
on the 13th of Boedromion, the Ephebi of Athens were 
marshalled, and went in procession to Eleusis in order to escort 

1 Dittenberger, Syll. No. 384. Br. Mus. Inscr. No. 2. The duration 
of the truce was from the middle of Metageitnion, including all Boe- 
dromion, until the 10th of Pyanepsion. 

2 Dittenberger, Syll. No. 387. 


thence on the 14th in solemn procession certain sacred objects, 
ra Upd, which were required for the procession from Athens 
to Eleusis, which at that age took place on the 19th of 

The first day of the Eleusinia fell on the 15th of Boe- 
dromion. It was called the assembling, dyvpfibs, because on it 
the mystae assembled in groups, each under the direction and 
guidance of a mystagogus. At the Stoa Pcecile they received 
a sort of address from the officials; the King-archon first 
ordering those to withdraw who were stained by crime or 
ignominy, or otherwise unworthy of admission, and the hiero- 
phant next proclaiming the conditions required of those who 
desired to be initiated, and enjoining purity, both inward and 
outward, on all. And the sacred herald impressed on the 
assembled votaries the duty of absolute secrecy as to all that 
they might witness, and bade them be silent throughout, and 
not even utter exclamations. 

The second day of the mysteries, the 16th of Boedromion, 
was that called dkaSe /xvo-rat, "Mystae to the sea," because on 
it the candidates for initiation purified alike themselves and 
the young pig, which was the regular victim of the goddesses, 
in the salt waters of the sea, or perhaps, as M. Lenormant 
maintains, in the salt water of the two lakes called Eheiti on 
the Sacred Way. 

These days were not at Athens holidays, except for the 
mystae. But the 17 th of Boedromion was kept as a holiday 
generally. On it there were solemn state sacrifices in the 
Eleusinium at Athens ; and each of the mystae offered the 
sacred pig required from him. On the 18th also there was a 
continuation of sacrifices and offerings to the two goddesses. 

The grand procession of the mystae from Athens to Eleusis 
is spoken of by the writers as happening on the 20th of the 
month. The inscription already cited assigns it to the 19th. 
Possibly by the time of Hadrian the day had been changed, or 
it may be, as Dittenberger suggests, that as the procession did 
not reach Eleusis until after sunset on the 1 9th it was reckoned 
as belonging to the 20th. It bore the name of Iacchus, because 
in it the statue of Iacchus was borne from Athens to Eleusis, 
escorted by the Ephebi, and followed by the crowd of the 
mystae, each bearing a lighted torch. The march was ordered 
by the Iacchagogus ; the statue was attended by two priestesses, 
and followed by bearers, who carried the cradle and the play- 
things of the infant deity. The procession kept up a constant 
singing of hymns, of which we may form some idea from the 

2 80 UULTUS 

imitations of them in the Frogs. At each of the shrines on the 
Sacred Way it stopped to make sacrifices and libations, to sing 
hymns and perform sacred dances. Naturally it moved but 
slowly and, though starting at daybreak, did not reach Eleusis 
till late at night. Reaching the spot the mystae found some 
shelter or encampment to protect them from the weather during 
their stay at Eleusis. 

The site of Eleusis has now been fully excavated by the Greek 
Archaeological Society. 1 The centre of the sacred enclosure 
was occupied by the great Hall of Initiation. This was in no 
sense a temple, but merely a vast hall, whereof the roof was 
supported by a forest of pillars, while round the four sides 
were stone seats eight steps high, capable of holding some 3000 
people. Practically it was only a shelter, adapted to protect 
from storms and rain the whole body of the mystse, together 
with the hierophant and other officials, who had to instruct 
them by sight and sound in the sacred lore of Eleusis. 

During the daytime the mystse fasted, breaking their fast, 
as the Mohammedans do in our time, at sunset ; and as most 
of the sacred ceremonies went on at night, we must suppose 
that the day was mostly spent in sleep, or in prostration resulting 
from the excitements of the night. Amid the nightly cele- 
brations we can distinguish certain interesting ceremonies. 

First the initiated had to rouse in themselves a feeling of. 
sympathy with Demeter in her passion. They imitated the 
sad wanderings of the goddess who roamed, torch in hand, 
along the shore of Eleusis ; and we are told that the lights 
which they bore looked from a distance like a swarm of fire- 
flies on the shore of the bay. They sat like their sorrowing 
goddess on the "joyless rock," and tried to imagine that from 
them also the sweet Persephone had been snatched away. 
Amid so many mystse some must have suffered the loss of their 
own children, and perhaps to them the feeling that such loss 
was not unknown, even to the immortal gods, and perhaps 
might be, like the absence of Persephone, only temporary, must 
have sometimes come as a strong consolation. 

Secondly, there was certainly a sacrament of eating and 
drinking. After a nine days' fast Demeter had been persuaded 
by the drolleries of Iambe or Baubo to partake of food and 
drink, and to change the harshness of despair for less passionate 
grief. The votaries of Demeter also broke their fast by eating 

1 A plan will be found in my New Chapters, and in the new edition of 
Smith's Classical Dictionary, under "Eleusis." 



from a sacred vessel and drinking a draught called the kvkccov, 
made of meal and water. They also handled certain sacred 
ohjects, transferring them from basket to box, or from box to 
basket, according to a fixed ritual. Of course such ceremonies 
are no surprise to the anthropologist, who knows that in all 
religions some of the most solemn ceremonies are connected 
with eating and drinking in common. 

Fig. 17.— Hall of the Mystve. (Dorpfeld.) 

Thirdly, it may be regarded as certain that the crowning and 
consummation of the whole celebration at Eleusis consisted in 
certain representations of a dramatic character, mysteries or 
miracle plays, which were acted in the sacred meeting-hall, and 
which contained the revelations to be made to the initiated. 

But we must begin by dismissing as fanciful and unfounded 
a great deal of modern conjecture on this subject. Some 

2 8 2 CULTUS 

modern writers have taxed their ingenuity to imagine such 
noble revelations as should correspond to what they think the 
Eleusinia ought to be. They have pictured to themselves 
elaborate ceremonies and carefully planned stage-effects ; and 
it must be confessed that they are not without the support of 
some ancient authorities, who, however, belong to the last 
periods of Greek literature. For example, the orator Themistius, 
who lived in the fourth century, writes of the mystse : " They 
wander about at first ; they enter on wearisome deviations ; 
they walk about full of suspicion and uncertainty in the dark- 
ness ; and the nearer they approach to the goal, the more 
terrible everything becomes : there is nothing but trembling, 
shuddering, sweating, and stupor. Then a marvellous light falls 
on them, and they enter pure places and meadows, and hear 
voices, and see dances, and witness majestic utterances and 
sacred forms." It is perhaps not strange that some writers 
should have supposed, on the strength of such passages as this, 
that the mystse, on their way to the hall of assembly, passed 
through long underground passages, and wandered far in the 
darkness. And the opinion has been widely diffused, though 
based on slight authority, that in these wanderings there were 
displayed before them the terrors of Tartarus, dreadful sights 
and sounds, in sharp contrast to the delights of Elysium 
supposed to be revealed in the hall itself. This view must be 
considered as finally disposed of by the evidence of excavation, 
which has proved that the underground passages which the 
Dilettanti supposed themselves to have discovered never existed. 
The darkling walk, which was said to be so full of terrors and 
uncertainties, could only be the walk from the propylsea to the 
gates of the hall. But we must remember that after their 
daily fast the votaries would be worked up to a pitch of excite- 
ment ; their expectation would be raised to the highest point ; 
and the nights were planned by the Attic calendar so as to fall 
when there was no moon. The mystse might therefore be very 
ready to imagine more than they saw. 

But what happened when at last the door of the hall 
was opened, and the torch-bearer appeared with his torch to 
lead the mystse into the sacred place? Then, at all events, 
it may be thought, strange sights and sounds would be met. 
The simple answer is that at Eleusis there was no provision 
for the production of strange stage-effects. Never at any time 
was there in the shallow stage of a Greek theatre any room 
for those elaborate effects in which modern stage managers 
delight. All was simplicity and convention. But at Eleusis 


there was not even a stage. The people sat tier above tier 
all round the building, and whatever went on had to go on 
in their midst. If they were dazzled by strange sights, these 
sights must have been very simply contrived. If they saw 
gods descending from the sky or rising from the ground, they 
must have been willing to spread round the very primitive 
machinery, by which such ascents and descents would be 
accomplished, an imaginative halo of their own. 

In the midst of the crowd the hierophant and his colleagues 
displayed certain sights and uttered certain sounds which the 
people received with trembling veneration, and filled with a 
meaning perhaps out of proportion to the actual phenomena. 
It is the opinion of Lenormant that on successive nights there 
were acted two separate miracle plays, in which the parts were 
taken by the officers of the Eleusinia; but as to the details 
of these plays, we are altogether left to conjecture. They 
dwelt perhaps on the wanderings and grief of Demeter, the 
return of Cora from the under-world, and perhaps the extra- 
ordinary history of Zagreus, who was slain by the Titans. 

The last formal act of the mysteries seems to us simple 
enough, though it was certainly regarded as no unimportant 
part of the whole. The mystse filled with water two vessels 
which bore the special name of plemochoae, and emptied them 
in libation, turning to east and west, and repeating the mystic 
words, re, kv€. The first prayer was directed to the sky, and 
was a petition for rain ; the second to the earth, as a prayer for 
fertility. These simple words are probably part of the oldest 
Eleusinian ritual, and show the original character of the whole 
festival to have been a religious service of prayer, that the corn- 
sowing just going on might lead to a fair harvest. 

By the 24th of Boedromion the secret parts of the mysteries 
were over ; the festival again became of a public nature, and 
all Athens again kept holiday. Then they celebrated the 
games called Eleusinia, one of the most important of Athenian 
agones, the prize wherein consisted of a measure of barley, 
renped probably in the sacred Rharian plain. The games 
grew in duration as time went on : at first only occupying one 
day, they at last absorbed quite four. An important part of 
them was the representation of tragedies in the theatre of 
Eleusis. We learn that at one time the plays of iEschylus 
were, by preference, selected on account of their religious 
character; in the Macedonian age the Dionysiac artists re- 
sorted to Eleusis, and for two or three days furnished amuse- 
ment to the mystae and their visitors. 


The return to Athens, like the setting out thence, took place 
in solemn procession, the priests joining the cortege. At one 
part at least of its progress the pomp must have relapsed into 
disorder and clamour ; for the people of Athens went out with 
masks on their faces to meet the returning mystse, and received 
them at the bridge over the Cephissus with jests and banter. 
The mystse replied, and a contest ensued of wit or of scurrility, 
in which each tried to surpass the other. Such mixtures of 
jest and religion do not shock the feelings of natives of southern 

There is no good ground for the supposition that the Eleu- 
sinian priests communicated to the people some theology above 
the common, some mystic doctrine preserved in the archives of 
Eleusis and handed down from age to age. There were rites 
and representations of a symbolic character, well adapted, no 
doubt, to act upon the nerves and imaginations of those present. 
These scenes brought men nearer to the gods, and caused a thrill 
of sympathy with the feelings of the deities to pass through 
human bosoms ; but they did not instruct the intellect, still less 
impart any cosmologic or theogonic system. Even the sentences 
which, as we learn, the actors in the divine dramas threw out 
from time to time, were full of fancy and mysticism rather than 
of sober meaning. "Aristotle," says Synesius, "is of opinion 
that the initiated learned nothing precisely, but that they re- 
ceived impressions, that they were put into a certain frame of 
mind ! " We can scarcely do better in such a matter than 
adhere to this opinion. 

A ceremony affects people by its symbolism, and each man 
interprets the symbols according to the state of his heart and 
his belief. To the vulgar-minded they are vulgar and trivial, 
to critical and uninterested spectators they are tedious and 
foolish ; but to those to whom they have a meaning they are 
of real value ; and the more vague the ceremony, the greater 
is the variety of meaning which can be put into it. Of dog- 
matic teaching, as we have already remarked, there was none 
at Eleusis : only pleasing sights to remain in the imagination, 
and short enigmatical sentences to be stored in the memory, 
all likely to recur to the mind at the critical moments of life, 
and whenever that state of nervous exaltation recurred which 
had existed when they were first received at Eleusis. 

The Eleusinia, though the most sacred of the Mysteries, by 
no means stood alone. Copies of them were introduced into 
many Greek cities ; and there were also celebrations of an 
independent origin and embodying other early traditions. For 


instance, there were in Arcadia mysteries connected with the 
deity whom the Arcadians called Desprena, and regarded as the 
daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, which seem to have been 
based on other legends than those of Eleusis. At Trcezen in 
Argolis and the island of ./Egina there were mysteries attached 
to the cult of two deities called Damia and Auxesia, which 
enjoyed considerable renown in the days of Herodotus. But 
the only mysteries which in antiquity and dignity could vie 
with those of Eleusis were those belonging to the Pelasgic 
Cabiri in the island of Samothrace. The whole cultus of these 
deities seems like a fossil fragment of a very primitive phase 
of Greek religion. There were, indeed, Phoenician Cabiri, but 
Lenormant 1 maintains that these were entirely distinct from 
the Samothracian deities, who were elemental spirits of fire, 
and teachers of mankind in the arts of metallurgy. They were 
in number four — two male, one female, and one of doubtful 
gender ; their names were Axieros, Axiokersus, Axiokersa, and 
Cadmilus. Kemoving the prefix axi, which seems to be the 
Greek a£ios, venerable or honourable, we may easily explain 
the first three names. Eros is the principle of union, Kersus 
the male, and Kersa the female procreative element ; from the 
union of the two latter Cadmilus is born. 

Of the Samothracian Mysteries we know very little ; but 
we may safely conjecture that the ideas of sex and of pro- 
creation dominated them even more than those of Eleusis. 
This fact may seem repulsive; but we must remember that 
all the nations of the Levant in early times closely connected 
the idea of generation with that of life after death, and that 
of a spirit dwelling in the universe. The more reserved 
manners of modern times make symbolism borrowed from the 
relations of the sexes seem out of place in religious exposi- 
tions ; but more primitive and demonstrative races did not 
feel the incongruity as we do. The worship of the Cabiri 
and their mysteries were adopted in several states of Greece, 
brought over no doubt by sailors and merchants who touched 
at Samothrace, or who ascribed their safety in storm to the 
interference of the Samothracian deities. An inscription has 
been found at Andania in Messenia, 2 giving full instructions 
for the celebration at that place of the mysteries of the Cabiri, 
who must there surely have been identified with the Dioscuri. 

1 In Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionary, s.v. Cabiri. 

2 Sauppe. Mystcricninschrift von Andania ; Dittenberger, No. 388. 
In Newton's h'ssays, p. 177, is a very full summary. 

2 86 CULTUS 

It deals, however, entirely with external ceremonies, such as 
processions and banquets, and does not give directions for 
those secret rites which were the essential part of the cult. 
One notable fact is, however, the mention in the inscription 
of certain sacred books, which we must suppose to have con- 
tained the ritual in use on these occasions. 



The subject of Religious Festivals in Greece is one of far too 
great extent to be adequately treated of in a handbook like 
the present. Every important cult had attached to it some 
festival, which had to be duly celebrated at some fixed time 
of year; every important city had a calendar, in which the 
days set apart for the festivals of the various civic deities were 
set forth in order ; and it was generally believed that neglect 
of the sacred usages thus established would bring down the 
wrath of offended deities. 

The character of some of the more important of the Greek 
festivals is set forth in the latter half of Hermann's Gottes- 
dienstliche Alterthumer. In the present work all that is 
attempted is, in other chapters, a sketch of the Eleusinia (chap, 
ix.) and the great agonistic festivals, which had an important 
national significance (chap, viii.), and in the present place, a 
brief account of the calendar and festivals of one city, Athens, 
which is not only the most important of Greek cities, but also 
that as to which we are in all things most fully informed. 

In place of tracing historically the origin of the various 
festivals of the Athenians, an interesting but somewhat specu- 
lative inquiry, we here rapidly follow the course of the Attic 
calendar, as established in historic times, using principally the 
authority of A. Mommsen, whose Heortologie (1864) is the 
most satisfactory work on the subject. 

The ordinary Attic year consisted of the following twelve 
months — Hecatombseon (roughly our July), Metageitnion 
(August), Boedromion (September), Pyanepsion (October), 
Msemacterion (November), Poseideon (December), Gamelion 
(January), Anthesterion (February), Elaphebolion (March), 
Munychion (April), Thargelion (May), Scirophorion (June). 
These months, some of which were 29 and some 30 days 


long, made up a year of 354 days ; and in order that the 
months should not in successive years fall in different seasons, 
it was necessary frequently to interpolate an intercalary month, 
a second Poseideon of 30 days. 

It should be remembered, in reading accounts of Greek 
festivals, that to the Greeks the festal day began at sunset, as 
the Sabbath still does among the Jews. Thus when a cele- 
bration belongs to the 10th of a month, its ceremonies might 
occupy any time between the sunset of the 9th and the sunset 
of the 10th. A torch-race, for example, would be held in the 
evening preceding the sacrifices and processions. 

It is impossible, in following the Attic Calendar, either to 
give references, which would take too much space, or to go 
into any details. Those who wish to examine the matter in 
detail must consult larger works. I shall endeavour only to 
impress upon the reader the great variety and interest of the 
religious festivals of Attica during the great time of Athens. 

Hecatombaeon, the first and hottest month of the year, was 
dedicated to Apollo as sun-god. On the 12th of the month 
the Cronia were celebrated, and on the 16th the Synoecia, a 
feast connected in legend with the o-woi/aoyxos, by which 
Theseus introduced unity into Attica. But the great event of 
the month was the Panathenaea, the most distinctively Attic 
of religious festivals, and one which has left us an unrivalled 
record in art. 

The festival was held on the 28th of the month, the sup- 
posed day of the birth of Athena, on which she sprang full- 
armed from the head of her father in the midst of the assembly 
of the gods. With the story of its origin the names of 
greatest importance in early Athenian history were intertwined. 
Erichthonius is said first to have established a festival in honour 
of the goddess ; Theseus made the Athenaea into Panathenaea ; 
and Peisistratus ordained that on every fourth year the festival 
should be one of exceptional brilliancy. But the Greater and 
the Lesser Panathenaea differed rather in scale than in char- 
acter: alike they bore testimony to the glory of the goddess 
and the splendour of the Athenian city, of which she was as 
it were the mythological embodiment. Primarily the Great 
Panathenaic festival was agonistic. There were musical con- 
tests in singing, with the lyre and the flute, and in rhapsodic 
recitation of epic poems ; and there were gymnastic contests on 
a scarcely smaller scale than those held at Olympia and Nemea. 
The victors were rewarded with amphorae of oil from the sacred 
trees of Athena, from six to sixty of which were assigned to 

2 88 CULTUS 

the various winners. Painted vases were also presented to the 
successful competitors, bearing a representation of the contest 
in which each had been successful ; in later days also the name 
of the archon to fix the date. 1 With the purely gymnastic 
exercises were mingled others of a more decidedly warlike 
character — riding on horseback in full armour, throwing the 
javelin from horseback, and leaping out of and returning to 
chariots in full course. 

Parties of dancers vied one with the other in the Pyrrhic 
dance, and the tribes sent up groups of adult men to contend 
for the prize of evavSpta, or manly beauty. At night torch- 
races were run, and the youths of Athens contended, like 
modern university men, in boat-races, though of course the 
sea-going boats were of a far more solid build than the light 
racing craft of modern days. 

On the principal day of the festival there took place that 
solemn procession up to the Acropolis of which a reflection 
still remains to us in the frieze of the Parthenon. The object 
of the procession was partly to convey to the presence of the 
goddess those who had been victorious in the games held in 
her honour, partly to conduct to the altar of sacrifice the cows 
presented by the Athenians, and the oxen and sheep sent for 
sacrifice by the various colonies of Athens in foreign lands. 
But the chief purpose was to carry up to the temple, perhaps 
for decking the wooden statue of Athena, which was her oldest 
and most sacred effigy, a robe woven by the Arrhephoric maidens, 
and broidered by them with scenes from the battle of the gods 
and giants, wherein Athena had herself won imperishable re- 
nown. The sacred peplos was attached as a sail to the mast 
of a ship when carried through the streets, and then carried up 
to the presence of Athena and deposited in her treasury. 

The month Metageitnion contained but unimportant festivals ; 
that which succeeded, Boedromion, was more important in the 
calendar. The second of the month was the anniversary of the 
contest between Athena and Poseidon for the Attic territory, 
a contest represented in one of the pediments of the Parthenon. 
It was a day of ill-fortune and depression. But the third was 
the anniversary of a far more auspicious event, the victory of 
Platsea. 2 We are, however, left in uncertainty how far this 

1 Many of these vases survive. They reach us mostly from Italy and 
Cyrene. See Monumenti delf Instituto, x. pi. 47, 48. It seems clear that 
these painted vessels cannot have contained oil, a purpose for which they 
are entirely unfitted. Cf. Rayet et Collignon, Ceramique Grecque, p. 129. 

2 Mommsen, Heortologie, p. 208. 


day was kept as a festival at Athens. On the 5th of the month 
was held the important festival of the Genesia, the feast of the 
dead. Originally it seems to have been the occasion on which 
families united to deplore the members who had passed from 
them during the year, and to renew by sacrifice their relation 
to them and the nether-gods. But this dolorous festival was 
redeemed to some degree of brightness by being connected with 
the memorial of the battle of Marathon, which was celebrated on 
the 6th. It was said that before that great victory the Athenian 
Polemarch Callimachus had vowed to Artemis Agrotera a goat 
for every Persian enemy who fell. But the great slaughter 
which took place, far exceeding his expectation, compelled the 
Athenians to commute the sacrifice promised for 500 goats, 
which were annually offered to the goddess. The glorious 
memories of Marathon were mingled with offerings at the 
Marathonian mound * where the slain Athenians were buried, 
with rejoicings and with military displays. 

On the 15th of Boedromion began the assembling and 
sacrifices preliminary to the Mysteries of Eleusis. As we have 
devoted to these Mysteries a special chapter, it is not necessary 
here to say more in regard to them. 

With the next month, Pyanepsion, the great heat of summer 
is past, and autumn comes on. On the 7th the Pyanepsia were 
held, a festival connected in legend with the Cretan expedition 
of Theseus, but mainly devoted to the honour of Apollo. It 
had something of the character of a harvest festival. Beans 
were cooked ; and the Eiresione, a sacred branch of olive, hung 
with figs, cakes, and pots of honey and milk, was carried in 
procession in honour of the sun-god. 

At about the same time the Oschophoria were celebrated. 
There was a procession which started from the temple of 
Dionysus at Limnae and passed through the town. It consisted 
of boys chosen for the occasion, who bore grapes and chanted 
songs. There was a race of youths from the temple of Dionysus 
to that of Athena Sciras at Phaleron, and the branches of vine 
which they bore were regarded as a gift from the god of wine 
to the goddess of oil. The mothers of the competitors met 
them with food ; and the day ended with a sort of picnic by 
the sea. 

On the evening of the 7th Epitaphia were celebrated, and 
sacrifices offered to the ancestral heroes of Athens. Probably 

1 This mound has recently been excavated, when remains of abundant 
sacrifices came to light. 



on this day the annual oration in honour of the Athenian 
citizens who during the year had died on foreign service was 

The 8th was a great festival of Theseus, Theseia, in connection 
with which there were not only sacrifices, but all sorts of contests. 
The inscriptions record prizes awarded for running, wrestling, 
and boxing, for casting the javelin and the like. We hear 
also of torch-races and competitions of trumpeters and heralds. 
On the next day there was a sort of military tournament, in 
which the youth of Athens displayed their skill in the use of 
their weapons. The feast of Theseus owed, if not its origin, 
at least its development to Cimon, when he fetched from 
Scyros the bones of the national hero of Attica. 

The days from the 9th to the 13th of Pyanepsion were 
occupied by the important festival of the Thesmophoria, which 
the play of Aristophanes has made in some aspects familiar to 
scholars. Pyanepsion was the month of sowing ; and Demeter 
Thesmophoros was goddess alike of the fruitfulness of the 
earth and of marriage and the procreation of children. In the 
festival only honourable burgher matrons could take part ; and 
for such part they had to prepare themselves by nine days 
of complete chastity. On the first day of the festival, called 
2-njvia, they betook themselves to Halimus, a suburban deme 
of Athens, and there mid jest and laughter celebrated certain 
mysteries of the goddess. On the 1 1 th they returned to 
Athens, and occupied a building called the Eleusinion, close to 
the Acropolis. On the next day they sat on the ground, and 
with fasting and lamentation besought the favour of the nether 
powers, perhaps taking their theme from the carrying away of 
Persephone, who at this season was supposed to return to her 
grim lord, Hades. On the final day of the festival rejoicings 
took the place of weeping : Demeter, it was supposed, was now 
reconciled, and would give fair offspring to the women of the 
Athenians, as well as a plenteous harvest in their fields. 

Towards the end of the same month came the Apaturia, a 
three days' festival of great importance, but rather from the 
social and political than from the religious side. It probably 
centred in the old Prytaneium, the common hearth of the 
people of Athens. Every citizen to whom a child had been 
born presented him before Zeus Phratrius and Athena, declared 
his legitimacy, and brought to the deities a thank-offering, a 
victim on whose flesh the members of the phratria feasted. 
Hence gatherings of clans and families, at which children 
showed their acquirements in various branches of learning, and 


found their level among their kindred. Later, on the tVv/ kou 
vka, or last of the month, was a festival of Hephaestus, in which 
those took part who made their living hy the arts which were 
under his patronage, the working of metal and fashioning of 
implements. It was termed XaAKeta. 

After the numerous festivals which we have mentioned there 
is a pause. The month Maemacterion was the beginning of 
winter, and the only festivals held in it were sacrifices to the 
winter deities Zeus /xai/zaK-r^s and Zeus yeojpyos. 

Poseideon was sometimes a single and sometimes a double 
month, especially devoted to Dionysiac festival and observance, 
particularly by the rustic population, to whom it was a time of 
idleness. The Haloa were a festival of harvest and vintage, 
held in honour of Demeter Persephone and Dionysus at Eleusis ; 
it belonged especially to women, and seems to have been in 
some degree a reflection of the great Mysteries of Eleusis. The 
Dionysia of winter, which belonged to an uncertain time in 
Poseideon, were celebrated kolt' dypovs, that is, in the villages 
of Attica. The festival, though held long after the gathering 
of grapes, which took place about the equinox, was doubtless 
connected with it. To us it is of great interest ; since out of 
the rustic buffooneries and dances which accompanied it the 
drama arose. The staining of the faces of the jesters with lees 
of wine was the origin of the dramatic mask, out of the hymns 
sung at the altar in honour of the young Dionysus came the 
cyclic chorus with its furthur developments. The birth of the 
wine-god inspired all the peasants with jollity and mirth, such 
as has down even to our own days in all European countries 
gathered about the winter solstice. In the Achamians of 
Aristophanes we have a picture of a family celebrating the 
Dionysia : the daughter bears on her head the basket of offer- 
ings, a servant carries the phallic symbol of the god ; all join 
in the procession, except the mother, who watches it from 
the roof. 

The next month, Gamelion, was marked by another Dionysiac 
festival, the Lensea, held at the Lenaeum at Athens. This feast 
appears to have lasted four or five days, and was the occasion of 
dramatic performances and contests, which superseded earlier 
recitation of dithyrambs. Another celebration of the month 
was the Gamelia, which had reference to that marriage of 
heaven and earth with which many mythologies begin. The 
Athenians would naturally connect it with the Upb<s ydfMos of 
Zeus and Hera. A. Mommsen regards this marriage celebra- 
tion as connected with the birth of the ancestral Attic deity 


Hephaestus, whose birthday came nine months later in the 
sacred year. 

In the fallowing month, Anthesterion, fell a third important 
Dionysiac festival, the Anthesteria, celebrated from the nth 
to the 13th. On the 1 ith came the -KiQoi-yia, or opening of the 
casks, in preparation for the coming feast. It throws a pleasing 
light on the relations of the Athenians to their slaves, when 
we find that this opening of casks, which was the business of 
slaves, brought with it not only permission for them to drink 
the new wine, but also liberty generally and a holiday from 
their ordinary tasks. Dionysus brought even to them rest 
and enjoyment. On this day also the oldest of the statues 
of Dionysus made a journey from the Lenaeum to a temple of 
the Outer Cerameicus, thence to return in solemn procession. 
On the 12th came the x° e? . The day, as usual in the Greek 
calendar, began at sunset of the 1 ith. At once a procession was 
formed with torches and lamps to bring back the sacred image 
to the Lenaeum. The cortege was full of masks, and of women 
who represented Nymphs and Bacchae, and rode in waggons : 
the Basilinna, the wife of the King Archon, rode with the god 
himself as his bride, and passed the night alone in his cella. 
Meantime all the people betook themselves to feasting, hospi- 
tality, and merriment, which lasted far into the night and the 
next day. The 13th, called yyjpoi^ was devoted to the worship 
of the Chthonic Dionysus, and of the dead. The offerings 
consisted of a compound of corn and fruits, offered in pots. 
Fourteen altars were set up to receive the sacrifices, in such 
wise that those seated in the theatre could clearly see them, 
when assembled to witness the cyclic choruses. It appears 
that into the details of the Anthesteria there penetrated, as we 
should have anticipated, much of the higher or esoteric Dionysiac 
doctrine which was taught by the Orphists. 

In Anthesterion also were celebrated the lesser Mysteries of 
Demeter and Persephone, which took place at Agree, on the 
other side of the Ilissus. On the 23rd the Diasia were held, 
probably at the temple of Zeus Olympius by the Ilissus. The 
character of this festival is indicated by the fact that the sacri- 
ficial animals were offered whole, and were sometimes pigs, a 
creature belonging especially to the ceremonies of expiation 
and purification. This then was a festival of atonement, and 
the Zeus to whom it belonged was MetAixios the propitious. 
It probably was intended to secure a favourable season for the 
ensuing spring. The poor who could not afford a victim, 
substituted for it, we are told, a cake moulded in animal form. 


The next month, Elaphebolion, brought a festival of world- 
wide renown, the city Dionysia, Atovvorta to. kv dcrrei. This 
lasted for several days, beginning on the 9th of the month 
with a celebration in honour of Asclepius. After the sacrifice 
to the healing deity, the people thronged to the Lcnseum, and 
thence convoyed to the theatre a statue of Dionysus : scarcely, as 
A. Mommsen thinks, the gold and ivory figure by Alcamenes. In 
some noble embodiment, the god had to preside at the celebra- 
tion in his honour. At this festival the tribute of the Athenian 
allies was paid over, the deputies who brought it taking a share 
in the splendid shows and sacrifices. The sons also of fathers 
who had fallen in arms for Athens were invested with arms in 
the theatre in presence of all the people. On the 10th of the 
month took place a lyric contest between bards. We still 
possess a fragment of an ode written by Pindar for the occasion. 
Then followed the three celebrated days of dramatic representa- 
tion, on each of which was performed a trilogy of tragedies in 
the morning and a comedy in the afternoon. In these com- 
petitions the masterpieces of Attic tragedy and comedy first 
saw the light; and the prizes, oxen and tripods, were eagerly 
sought by the greatest dramatists. The whole was concluded 
on the 14th of the month by the Pandia, a celebration in 
honour of Zeus, which seems in later days of Athens to have 
been somewhat overshadowed by other festivals. 

The tenth month, Munychion, brings us to early summer. 
On the 6th were held the Delphinia in honour of Apollo and 
Artemis as deities of navigation. The purport of the festival 
was to hallow the opening of navigation ; and as was often the 
case at Athens, a legend arose to connect it with Theseus, who 
had on that day set out for Crete, after prayers and dedications 
to Apollo. In after years, on the same day, started the sacred 
Athenian embassy to Delos. 

On the 1 6th came the Munychia, also sacred to Artemis, to 
whom were brought on this day cakes girt round with lighted 
candles (u/x</uc/xovTes). Mommsen regards as contemporary 
with this celebration that held at Athens and at Brauron, in 
honour of the Biauronian Artemis. The Brauronia are interest- 
ing from the point of view of comparative mythology. Young 
girls, termed apKroi, danced in honour of the goddess a bear- 
dance, and figures of bears in various materials were dedicated 
to her. Such customs probably were survivals of a time when 
some Attic tribe looked on the bear as its sacred head, 
afterwards preserving in the service of Artemis the customs 
which had their origin before her arrival. The Munychia in 


the fifth century attained a higher development from the 
mingling with them of the annual thanksgiving for the glorious 
victory of Salamis. At Salamis on this day was the celebration 
in honour of the hero Ajax ; and the youth of Athens thronged 
over to the island, and there competed with the Salaminians in 
a rowing contest and torch-races. Later in the month came the 
Olympieia, annually held in honour of the Zeus of Olympus, 
after Pisistratus had laid the foundations of his great temple 
by the Ilissus. 

The next month, Thargelion, took its name from the Thar- 
gelia, dedicated to Apollo and Artemis. According to the 
people of Delos, Apollo had been born on the 6th, and Artemis 
on the 7th of the month ; from the Delians, probably, the 
people of Athens took the festival. On it they brought to the 
deities of summer heat, to Helios and the Horse, the first-fruits 
of the summer crops ; and a procession and musical competi- 
tion took place. But there was a darker side to the Thargelia, 
showing that originally there was in them something of the 
sin-offering. After a sacrifice of an ewe to Demeter Chloe, 
two human victims were led in procession with figs bound 
round their necks, and as we are told, sacrificed to Apollo, the 
source and the averter of pestilence and famine, on behalf of 
the men and women of Athens. Whether they were actually 
put to death may be doubted ; in historic times human sacri- 
fices were almost everywhere in Greece modified and commuted ; 
and though not wholly extinct, were reserved for rare and 
solemn occasions. 

On the 19th took place the festival of the Thracian goddess 
Bendis, one of the last importations into the official Pantheon 
of Athens, into which she was not admitted until the time of 
Pericles, though she had settled earlier in Piraeus. A feature 
of it was a torch-race on horseback, probably borrowed, like 
the goddess herself, from the rude peoples of northern Greece. 
Contemporary with the Bendideia were the Plynteria and Cal- 
lynteria, closely connected festivals. Their principal feature 
was a solemn cleansing or bath of the ancient image of Athena 
preserved in the Erechtheum. In elaborate ceremonial the 
statue was stripped of its arms and garments, then swathed in 
wrappings and carried forth, probably to the sea, though this is 
not certain, and washed. Her temple was closed, being bound 
round with cords ; and the day of her bath was reckoned an 
inauspicious one for any business, as her oversight could not be 
relied on. In the evening she was brought back by torchlight 
to her sacred home. 


The last month of the calendar, Scirophorion, contained the 
Scirophoria, a festival belonging wholly to women, like the 
Thesmophoria Its chief feature was a procession led by the 
priest of Erechtheus, who bore a large parasol (a-Kipov) in his 
hand, to a place called 2/ctpov, near Athens. Its meaning is 
somewhat obscure. Perhaps connected with it were the Arrhe- 
phoria, also sacred to Athena, and marked by an interesting 
ceremonial of a puzzling character. Pausanias 1 tells us that 
on the evening of the festival the two Arrhephoric maidens 
who had their abode on the Acropolis, " place on their heads 
objects which the priestess of Athena gives them to carry, the 
nature of which is known neither to the giver nor to the bearers. 
The maidens go down by a secret underground passage leading 
to a precinct near the temple of Aphrodite of the Gardens. 
Below they leave their burdens ; and take up in exchange 
something covered up." 

On the 14th of Scirophorion came the remarkable festival of 
the Diasia or Buphonia, held on the Acropolis. On the altar of 
Zeus Polieus were spread various kinds of corn and cakes. An 
ox prepared for sacrifice was driven to the altar, and as soon as 
he began to feed on the corn, was struck down by the priest 
with an axe. Immediately the priest fled, but was seized, and 
with all the attendants haled to the Prytaneium as a murderer. 
All excused themselves, and finally the guilt was fixed upon 
the sacrificial axe, which was condemned and cast into the sea. 
The skin of the dead ox was stuffed, and the appearance of life 
was given to it by yoking it in a plough. The flesh was pre- 
pared as a solemn meal, of which some officials partook. It 
is impossible here to enter into the meaning of this curious 
ceremonial, which can only be understood by a comparison of 
the customs of various primitive peoples. We may, however, 
observe that in other peoples who have recently exchanged the 
nomadic for the agricultural condition the slaying of a ploughing 
ox is regarded as an offence of as deep a die as the murder of a 

This slight sketch may suffice to give some notion of the 
degree to which the religion of the state and its observances 
entered into the life of Athenian citizens. Something was 
almost always going on, in the way of procession or sacrifice or 
feast, in which every Athenian had a right to take part. That 
all this religious ceremonial would tend directly to ethical im- 

1 I. 27, 3. Compare Miss Harrison's Cults and i}fonuments of A ncicnt 
Athens, p. xxxiii. 


provement may be very doubtful ; but certainly it would pro- 
mote sociability and good taste, and the love of public shows. 
Every citizen would have it brought home to him several times 
in the month that he was a member of a society, having 
definite relations to his ancestors, his fellow-citizens, and the 
civic deities. In this fashion the religion of the state became 
a binding force in cities, and we can understand alike the 
jealousy felt by the Greeks towards new and unauthorised 
cults, and the resisting power of Greek religion. Long after 
men ceased really to believe in Athena and Apollo and Artemis 
as existing and ever-present beings, they clung to the ceremonial 
of their worship as a thing without which life would lose much 
of its meaning, and patriotism its best sanction. 

When we compare the bright and varied interest of life in 
a Greek city, its struggling political activities and its successive 
religious festivals, with the dull level of the existence of the 
poor in modern cities, we feel how far advancing civilisation 
may sometimes be from promoting the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number. 

Another observation which is forced on us by a review of 
the Attic Calendar is the importance in Greece of the Dionysiac 
cultus. In the practical life of religion Dionysus was of more 
importance at Athens than Zeus, Apollo, or even Athena. 
And there was attached to his cultus more of religious doctrine 
also, if perhaps less of mythologic tale. Many writers have 
failed to appreciate the importance of the Dionysiac element in 
Greek religion ; but those who study the Athenian sacred year 
can scarcely overlook it. 




The modern custom, according to which a male doctor attends 
women in childbirth, differs from that of the Greeks. Their 
usual attendant in such cases was a midwife, whose only skill 
was derived from practice, or even any elderly slave of the 

Immediately on the birth of a child came the ha thing in 
XvrXa, that is, either water or water mixed with oil (at Sparta 
with wine), to confirm its nickering life. In front of the house 
were suspended, if the child were male, olive-houghs, if it were 
female, woollen fillets. The birth of a female child was much 
dreaded, alike by the ancient Greeks and their modern repre- 
sentatives. On the fifth day, or the seventh according to some 
writers, took place the first birth-ceremony, when the nurse 
and other attendants, putting off their clothes, bore the new- 
born child round the biasing hearth, and then ceremonially 
cleansed themselves and the mother from supposed impurity. 
This was called the a/x</)tSpo/xta. Still more important was the 
tenth day, the SeKarr], when friends and relations were invited 
to a solemn feast and sacrifice, and the infant was openly 
acknowledged as legitimate by the father, and received the 
name it was to bear, as well as presents from friends and 
relations. 1 Whether the birthday was kept as an annual celebra- 
tion we do not know. Censorinus informs us that a feast was 
usual on the fortieth day after birth, when the mother might 

1 Aristoph. Birds, 922 : — 

ovk dpri Ovio rr\v beKar-qv tch/ttjs eyw, 
icai TofivofJL cbawep iraidiy vvv 8r] 'de/xi^v ; 


be expected to be convalescent, and also the worst danger to 
the infant life past. This period of forty days is still observed 
in Greece. 

So things were ordered when the father intended to rear 
the child. But he often, and more frequently if it was a girl, 
declined this duty, and caused it to be exposed in the streets, 
in a x^ T /° a 5 a large earthen vessel, to be taken up by any one 
who pleased, or even ordered it to be put to death. In case of 
exposure, e/cflecris, some trinkets or amulets, yvw^tV/xara, would 
be fastened to it, which might sometimes be preserved, and lead 
to recognition later by the parents. No doubt the origin of the 
custom of exposure lay less in aversion to the trouble of educa- 
tion than in fear of having to subdivide an inheritance perhaps 
already too small. In fact, it was the Greek remedy for over- 
population, a revolting solution of a hitherto insoluble problem. 
In some states, such as Sparta, this extreme prudence produced 
a continual decay in the free population, and the state found 
it necessary to encourage the bringing up of sons ; making the 
man who had four free from all taxes. At Thebes only was 
exposure of children forbidden. 

As the Greeks had no family- or sur-name, it was usual in 
naming a child to keep up in some way the hereditary sequence. 
The most usual thing was to name a boy after his paternal 
grandfather, so that we commonly find names recurring in 
families in alternate generations. 1 This custom still survives 
among Greeks. Sometimes father and son for two or three 
generations would have the same name ; but more often the 
initial or concluding syllables would be changed ; thus Nausi- 
philus is son of Nausinicus, and Phocion of Phocus. If the 
mother of a boy were of more honourable family than the father, 
he might take the name of a maternal grandfather or uncle. 
Names compounded with -hippus were supposed to have an 
aristocratic sound. Again, a father would very often name a 
son after a deity or hero on whose day the birth fell, or whose 
worship he especially affected ; such names often commemorated 
a vow ; thus we get Diophantus and Apollodotus. Or he would 
form a name from some circumstance of his life, from his 
intentions with regard to the child or some peculiarity of the 
latter. Or he might adopt the name of a friend or even a friendly 
people, whence Thessalus, Lacedsemonius, &c. Finally, it often 
happened that a nickname given to a lad superseded his true 

1 Instance ; the later (Antigonid) Kings of Macedon, or the Kings 
of Syria. 


name ; a well-known instance is the name Plato, given to the 
philosopher on account of his sturdy figure. The names of girls 
seem to have been bestowed more at random ; but we find 
certain female names common in certain families, as Laodice in 
that of the Kings of Syria, Berenice and Cleopatra in that of 
the Ptolemies. 

On its birth a child was handed over to a nurse, frequently 
to a wet-nurse, titOi), who suckled it, feeding it in addition with 
honey. When a child was of sufficient age to require more 
solid food, the nurse would place in its mouth pap which she 
had prepared by chewing it herself. It is proved by the 
inscriptions on many tombstones erected in memory of nurses 
by young men who had been their charge, how tender was the 
relation between nurse and child, and how long it persisted into 
the life of adults. 

It was the custom in all parts of Greece except Sparta to 
wrap up young infants in crirdpyava, or swaddling bands. A 
long strip of wool, three fingers wide, was wound round and 
round the little body, beginning with the arms, then confining 
the chest and the legs, and even the head. Ancient monuments 
fully illustrate this custom, and show how the child became a 
sort of package, whereof only the face was visible, and which 
was handed about or carried like a parcel. Whatever modern 
authorities may say as to the evils of such a system, it can- 
not be denied that under it were produced bodily forms like 
those of the discobolus of Myron and the Aphrodite of Melos. 
Sometimes, however, well-to-do parents preferred to import a 
Laconian helot woman as nurse, and to give the limbs of their 
infants free play. 

No small part of a nurse's duties consisted in preserving her 
charge from the evil influences of supernatural powers. There 
was a whole class of evil spirits who lived on the lives and 
health of children, such as Mo/a/xw, 'Akkm and 'AAc/ktw, and the 
^rpiyya in whom the Greek peasant believes to this day. The 
Nymphs frequently cut short the life of children as they did 
that of young Hylas. Then there was the evil eye, 6'</>#aA/zos 
Bdo-KOLvos, to guard against as a peril always at hand. Against 
these evil influences children were fortified by a host of amulets, 
Trpo/3acn<avLa, hung round their necks, Sepcua, or fastened to their 
persons, as well as by the singing of songs and charms. Some- 
times the place of the titOi) was taken by a t/3o</>os, who was 
merely an elderly female slave detached to take charge of a 
child, to carry him when the mother took him abroad, and to 
wash and dress him. 


Until their seventh year boys and girls remained together in 
the gynaeconitis, watched and tended by mother and nurse. 
The girls, whose childhood lasted longer than that of the boys, 
amused themselves with dolls, Kopai, of which many survive, 
made of clay and painted, with the arms and legs so fastened 
on with string as to be easily movable. The boys had go-carts, 
afjLagtSes, and figures of soldiers and animals of the same material. 
Children of all times have rejoiced in the ball, the hoop, and the 
whipping top. And parents of all ages have played with them. 
It is said of Agesilaus l that he used to ride on a reed to please 
his boys. The swing was also a favourite plaything. The 
illustrious Archytas condescended to invent the child's rattle, 
7rAaTay>j. Strepsiades in the Clouds 2 relates with pride how 
his son Pheidippides when quite a little fellow had a mechanical 
turn ; moulded houses and ships, made go-carts of leather, and 
frogs out of pomegranate rind. It was very easy for children 
to mould wax or clay, and if we might judge from the rudeness 
of many figures which have come down to us, we should find 
in them the work of childish hands. 

There were also plenty of social games, which the girls 
practised in their room, and the lads in the streets. The 
general character of these was not one of vigorous competition 
or athletic exercise ; but objects were very usually tossed, the 
thrower trying to bring them down with one or the other side 
up. The chief instrument of these games was the knuckle- 
bone, da-TpdyaXos, which was used even by men and women for 
dice, but with children a piece of earthenware blackened on one 
side was often substituted. The game a/OTiacr/xos was an usual 
one with children. It was played with pieces of money or 
other small objects, of which one player took up a handful, and 
the other guessed whether the number so taken was even or 
odd. Children also threw nuts, as marbles are thrown with us, 
to fall into a marked space. 3 There was also a game resembling 
blind man's buff, with the addition that those whom the blind 
man was pursuing struck him with leathern straps. This was 
called x a ^- K ^ pvia. Often one lad was made king, and the rest 
were bound under penalties to execute his orders. There were 
a few more boyish games, such as that called by us French and 
English, where two parties of boys pulled at the two ends of 
a rope ; but no contest of skill for children like the modern 
football and cricket. 

If we may judge from the reliefs on tombs, Greek children 

1 Plutarch, Ages. 25. - L. 878. 3 Pollux, ix. 122. 


were very fond of animals, and commonly made pets of them. 
The dog is constantly in attendance; not a gaunt, lean, savage 
creature like the modern Greek dog, but a little " Spitz " with 
pointed nose and long hair. The cat was not known to the 
Greeks in early times, but its place was taken up by the 
yuA?/, or weasel, as regards mousing. Its social position was 
held by the dog or by the bird, which seems to have been 
one of the most universal playthings of young girls. If we 
add to these the snake and the tortoise, the list will be fairly 

Greek nurses were fond of frightening and amusing their 
charges with tales. Certain hobgoblins, as Mopjuo and "E/x7rovcra, 
were specially kept for nursery use. The extraordinary rich- 
ness of Greek legend and mythology must have supplied story- 
tellers with an endless stock of material. Even in modern 
Greece a good many classical legends still survive in a modified 
shape among nurses — that of Eros and Psyche, for instance. 
Both Plato and Aristotle would gladly have seen society take 
in hand the subject of nurses' tales, and work them to a more 
moral end ; and it is easy to understand that there was very 
much in Greek mythology unfit for children to hear. Beast 
tales like those of iEsop Mere much in vogue. 1 

Einally, as to punishments. The usual resource was the 
ready one of castigation, which was administered by the mother 
with her slipper, or by the father or pedagogue with a cane. 

In regard to education in Greece, it must be first observed 
that it was a thing entirely of Greek invention. Almost all 
other peoples have been largely influenced in education by the 
example of foreign nations, but in Greece we reach the very 
origin of all that can in the modern sense of the word be 
called bringing up; and tin greatest philosophers and artists 
had in some cases an undeniable influence on its character. It 
was also directed to a consciously chosen end, the production 
of citizens worthy of the state, who would carry on in the 
future the best life of past ages. Hence the notion now in 
some places prevalent, that the object of education is only the 
acquirement of knowledge, is diametrically opposed to the Greek 
idea of education. They regarded it as a training for right 
living rather than for correct thinking. And if conduct be, 
as we are told, three-fourths of human life, their view has 
some obvious justification. 

The Greeks, as we might naturally have expected, attached 

1 Aristoph. Vesp, 1 182. 


the greatest possible value to education. In Sparta and the 
Dorian states the training of hoys was carried on by the state, 
with the purpose of making them manly and worthy citizens. 
From their seventh year the Spartan boys were enrolled in com- 
panies, over which the most active of them were made captains. 
All were subjected to a most rigorous discipline at the hands 
of their elders. This iron discipline naturally had a great 
attraction for Plato, and originated the notion which he works 
out in the Republic and the Laws of an organised and com- 
pulsory system of state education But so far as intellectual 
education went, the Spartan teaching was rather less developed 
than different from that of the rest of Greece. At present I 
propose to confine myself in the main to Athens, and to consider 
what kind of education was there provided, and how it was 
regarded by the wiser among the Greeks themselves. 

It is not very easy to determine how far any education was 
compulsory at Athens. On the one hand, the laws of Solon 
seem to have enjoined upon every father the duty of educating 
his sons. Plato 1 speaks of the laws as commanding instruction 
in music and gymnastics. But on the other hand, the only 
sanction to these laws of which we hear is the provision that 
a child whom his parents had neglected to educate was not 
bound to maintain them in old age. There were at Athens 
magistrates, the 7raiSovo/zoi, who were appointed to inspect 
schools; but it is very improbable that they looked beyond 
mere outward order and propriety, or in any way controlled the 
course of study. In matters of outward decency, no doubt the 
regulations were strict. iEschines 2 speaks of laws regulating 
the hours of attendance at school, and fixing a limit to the 
number of pupils. He also declares that it was illegal to open 
schools before sunrise, or keep them open after sunset, no doubt 
in order that the boys might go to and fro by daylight. And 
we are even told that it was forbidden under pain of death 
for grown men to visit the schools ; but a law of this kind 
can hardly have been kept. So long as sanitary and other 
regulations were observed, any one seems to have been at 
liberty to open a school, and his intellectual qualifications 
were regarded as the concern only of himself and the parents 
of his pupils. 

We must imagine the boys of Athens, from their seventh to 

1 Crito, p. 50. Trapayy^WovTes rex) warpl ry try, <rk if /xovcriKy Kal 
yv/xvaaTiKy iraibeveiv. 

2 In Timarch. 9. /xera iroawv iralduv daUvai. 


their sixteenth year, Hocking in crowds in the early morning 
to the schools. Each would be accompanied by a pedagogue, 
7ratSttywy(')s, an old and trusty slave, who was bound never to 
lose sight of him, to carry his lyre and tablets, and to keep him 
out of mischief. The pedagogue of course had nothing to do 
with teaching, he had only to take his charge to school or to 
the palaestra, and to wait to bring him back. But as we know 
how careful the educated Greeks were of their boys, we can 
easily understand that the character of a pedagogue was of the 
utmost importance, and even his deportment, as the moulding 
of the manners of his young charge would be in great part his 
work. To these manners the Greeks attached, as is well 
known, the greatest importance. They loved to see extreme 
modesty (alSios) in boys, who were expected to walk in the 
streets soberly, with eyes fixed on the ground, to rise, if seated, 
on the approach of an elder, and never to speak except when 
spoken to. 1 In minor matters also they were carefully trained, 
such as in what way to wrap their liimation about them, the 
correct method being to proceed from left to right (i-rrl Se£ia), and 
how many fingers to use to the different kinds of food. In the 
vase paintings we see lads when in the presence of their elders 
standing, and so much wrapped up that only their head is 
visible. If allowed, as a special treat, to be present at a 
banquet, boys sat while the feasters reclined, and were sent off 
early to bed. It is evident that rules so rigorous would only 
be kept up by a pedagogue of principle, and we can understand 
what blame Pericles incurred for giving to Alcibiades a peda- 
gogue too old and feeble to be efficient. In the period succeed- 
ing the Peloponnesian war the boys gradually revolted, and at 
length were even sometimes encouraged by their parents to 
beat their attendants. 

The ideas of the Greeks as regards the purpose of educa- 
tion, both in physical training and in learning, differed greatly 
from ours. As to physical training I will speak in the next 
chapter. As regards learning, the moral aspect of education 
was kept far more in the foreground than it is by us, though of 
course in our schools there are in this respect great differences. 
But we feel far more than did the Greeks the necessity of 
intellectual training ; and no one in England subordinates 
knowledge to moral training to such an extent as the Greeks 
did. One can imagine the astonishment which an educated 
Greek would feel at the notion of electing men by examination 

1 Plutarch, Virt. doccri posse, 2. 


to fill offices in the state. Even the custom of election by lot 
would seem less absurd than that. 

Perhaps nothing will put this iti a clearer light \han quoting 
part of the speech of Protagoras as to education which Plato 
puts into his mouth. Protagoras no doubt was a sophist, and 
one may take a handsome discount from his words on the 
ground of their rhetorical character ; nevertheless they are very 

" Beginning from early childhood, they teach and admonish 
their sons as long as they live. For as soon as any one under- 
stands what is said, nurse, mother, pedagogue, and the father 
himself, vie with each other in this, to make the boy become 
as good as possible ; in every word and deed teaching and 
pointing out to him that this is just, and that unjust, this is 
honourable and that base, this is righteous and that unrighteous, 
and this you must do and that you must not do. And if the 
boy obeys willingly, it is well ; but if not, like a plank twisted 
and bent, they make him straight by threats and blows. After 
this they send him to school, and give the teachers much 
more strict injunctions to attend to the children's morals than 
to their reading and music : and the masters do attend to this, 
and when the boys have learned their letters, and are likely to 
understand what is written, as before words spoken, they place 
before them on their benches to read, and compel them to 
learn by heart, the compositions of good poets, in which there 
are many admonitions, and many tales, and praises, and en- 
comiums of good men of former times, in order that the boy 
may imitate them through emulation, and strive to become 
such himself. Again, the music-masters, in the same way, pay 
attention to sobriety of behaviour, and take care that the boys 
commit no evil : besides this, when they have learnt to play 
on the lyre, they teach them the compositions of other good 
poets, lyric poets, setting them to music, and they compel 
modes and harmony to become familiar to the boys' souls, in 
order that they may become more gentle, and being themselves 
more rhythmical and harmonious, they may be serviceable in 
word and deed ; for the whole life of man requires rhythm and 
harmony. Moreover, besides this, they send them to a teacher 
of gymnastics, that having their bodies in a better state, these 
may be subservient to their well-regulated minds, and they 
may not be compelled to cowardice through bodily infirmity, 
either in war or other actions. And these things they do who 
are most able ; but the richest are the most able, and their 
sons, beginning to frequent masters at the earliest time of life, 


leave them the latest. And when they are set free from 
masters, the state still further compels them to learn the laws, 
and to live by them as a pattern, that they may not act at 
random after their own inclinations, but exactly as writing- 
masters having ruled lines with an instrument for those boys 
who have not yet learnt to write well, then give them the 
writing-tablet, and compel them to write according to the 
leading of the lines, so the state having prescribed laws which 
were the inventions of good and ancient legislators, compels 
men both to govern and be governed according to these, but 
whoso transgresses them it punishes ; and the name given to 
this chastisement, both among you, and in many other places, 
is correction, since punishment corrects." 

One cannot read the writers of the good period without 
observing that what they expected and valued above all things 
in boys was o-iocfrpovdv, modesty of demeanour and a respectful 
carriage. Forwardness in boys was as much disapproved as 
was forwardness in girls among ourselves a generation ago. 
Boys would not be taken to witness a comedy. If for a 
treat they went out to dinner, they would, like Autolycus in 
Xenophon's Symposium, not recline, but sit by their fathers, 
and be sent away before amusements of a doubtful character 
were introduced. Types of the boy of good family may be 
seen on Attic sepulchral reliefs, or in the Eros of the Parthenon 
frieze, or observed in the Tliecetetas of Plato. Even in Lucian's 
pages 1 we read of boys walking the streets with bent head, 
looking at no one. But perhaps the most complete picture of 
the well-bred Athenian boy is to be found in the speech 2 in 
which Aikcuos Aoyos seeks to persuade Pheidippides into the 
ways of virtue: — 

"I will describe the old-fashioned education, how it was 
ordered when I flourished speaking what was just, and tem- 
perance was in fashion. First of all, it was considered proper 
that no one should hear a boy uttering a syllable ; next, that 
those of the same quarter should walk in a body in good order 
to the abode of the music-master, clad in tunic only, though 
snow fell thick as flour. Then the master taught them to 
repeat sittine, not cross-legged, a song, LTaAAaSa 7re/3o-e7roAiv 
Seivav, or Tr]\€Trop6v ™ /3oa/xa, raising high the harmony 
handed down to us by our fathers. But if any of them 
played the fool, or were to attempt any flourish like the diffi- 
cult turns now in fashion, after the manner of Phrynis, 

1 Amor. 44. 2 Aristoph. Clouds, 1. 961. 



he would be beaten with many blows for banishing the 

Boldly, my boy, choose me the better method, 

And learn to avoid the Agora and to abstain from the baths, 

And to be ashamed at the vile, and if they ridicule you to be angry, 

And to rise from your seat when your elders approach, 

And never to injure your parents or do any other wrong, 

For you are to form an image of modesty." 

The tendencies against which Aristophanes raised a voice 
of indignant protest were destined to prevail in later Greece. 
And in the field of education these tendencies mainly worked 
in the direction of the substitution of intellectual for moral 
training. Geometry and arithmetic, which earlier systems of 
education had despised as not ethical, became a part of regular 
training, while in the teaching of literature the study of words 
and of the tricks of rhetoric took the place of the old-fashioned 
appreciation of noble sentiment. The natural result appeared 
in the spread of knowledge, the growth of science, and the 
wide diffusion of the art of carefully expressing thought in 
words, while the political decline and social corruption of the 
Greek race went on steadily, and inspiration died out of poetry 
and art. Whether this process was not a necessary condition 
of the evolution of ancient society may be doubted ; but we 
cannot wonder that to the ethically-minded of the Greeks it 
seemed a process of decay and degeneration. 

We must briefly treat of the status of teachers and their 
relations to their pupils, as well as of the subjects in which 
they gave instruction. 

It must be confessed that there was in Greece little of that 
confidence and love between teacher and taught which has 
become in England, since Dr. Arnold's days, at least theoreti- 
cally universal. Xenophon in the Anabasis 1 says of Clearchus, 
" He had no tact, but was severe and harsh : so that the rela- 
tion of soldiers to him was like that of boys to a master ; they 
did not follow him for love and good-will." And at a later 
age Lucian 2 gives no pleasanter impression : " Who ever came 
away from a feast weeping, as we see boys coming from school 1 
or who was ever seen to go to a feast so sulkily as boys going 
to school ? " 

The status of the teacher naturally varied, as with us, accord- 
ing to circumstances ; but the tendency of the Greeks was to 

1 ii. 6, 12. 2 Paras. 13. 


despise those who in any way taught for money, and to put 
them on a level with artisans. Naturally those who were most 
despised were the elementary teachers, ol t<x irpiora 8l8o.(tkovt€<s 
ypdfifxara. Lucian l speaks in jest of those who in this life 
were kings or satraps as being reduced in the next to the 
condition of fish-sellers or elementary teachers. There was a 
proverb in Greece referring to those who had disappeared from 
the circle of their acquaintance : " lie is either dead or turned 
teacher." Demosthenes throws it in the teeth of his opponent 
iEschines that both he and his father were in the service of a 
teacher of boys ; and it fell 2 to the lot of young iEschines to 
sponge down the forms (/Sadpoi), make the ink, and perform 
other services unworthy of a freeman. 

The pay of these elementary teachers (ypapparia-Tai) was no 
doubt very low, though we have no indication of its exact 
amount. That it was paid monthly is clear from the satire of 
Theophrastus, 8 who makes it one of the traits of his miser to 
keep liis son away from school in the month of Anthesterion, 
because of the number of holidays in it. In the third mime 
of Herondas we find that the 30th of the month was the day 
for school-fees to be paid. It is probable that large numbers 
of lads congregated in the better-known schools. Thus we 
hear of a school at Astypalaea where there were sixty pupils, 
and of one in Chios where there were a hundred and twenty. 
These were of course day-schools ; boarding-schools were not 
known among the Greeks. The time of school probably com- 
prised the hours of light, except such part as was occupied by 
the mid-day meal and the attendance at the palaestra. 

Of course, the instructors in the higher branches of learning 
received a far higher rate of pay and more consideration, 
though even to them belonged the stigma, indelible to the 
Greek mind, of working for hire. It is well known that the 
sophists and rhetoricians of later Greece demanded and received 
large sums of money. 

The ordinary course of preliminary instruction for boys con- 
sisted of three parts, ypdppara, /aoxktik?/, yvpvao-TiKyj, to which 
was afterwards added in the fourth century B.C. drawing: 
ypdapara included reading and writing, and Plato in the Laius 4 
says that arithmetic should be learned at the same time; 
though it is certain, as will be seen below, that the Greeks 
were never very proficient in it. Of the course pursued in 

1 Necyom. 17. 2 De Coron. p. 313. 

3 Char. 30. 4 Legg. vii. p. 819. 

3<d8 the course of life 

teaching to read, Dionysius of Halicarnassus l gives us an exact 
idea. First, he says, we learn the names of the letters, then 
their shape and force. After that we join them into syllables 
and words. Then we learn about the component parts of 
sentences, nouns, verbs, and particles. Then we begin to read, 
slowly at first and by syllables. In the above-mentioned pro- 
cess of forming letters into syllables, we know from a terra-cotta 
tablet published by M. Dumont, 2 that the children were taught 
to repeat strings of similarly ending syllables, ap, /3ap, yap, Sap, 
&c, op, Pop, yop, Sop, &c, probably chanting them in classes. 
As soon as the boys could read, they were put upon the poems 
of Homer and Hesiod, and the moral writings of Theognis, 
Solon, and the rest, which thus became familiar to them from 
earliest childhood. In writing, as we learn from Plato's 
Protayoras, 3 they began by the imitation of a copy, but soon 
progressed as far as writing from dictation, for which purpose 
Homer was again brought into requisition. 

It has been disputed whether the Greeks were accustomed to 
writing, but it is certain that before the time of Plato it was 
usually taught in the schools. The pupils at an early period 
used tablets, irtvaKts or SeXroi, covered with a coating of wax on 
which lines were drawn with a stylus of metal, but later paper, 
/?i/3Aos, was used, and the writing performed with a reed and a 
black fluid, fxtkav. The latter method was already in use 4 when 
zEschines went to school, that is, early in the fourth century. 5 

When boys had learned to read and write, they were en- 
couraged or compelled to learn by heart great masses of poetry, 
of Homer or Simonides, or the gnomic poets. Many a Greek 6 
knew by heart the whole of the Iliad and Odyssey. What 
they had thus learned they had to recite before teacher and 
pupils, paying special attention to grace of action and correct- 
ness of expression. Indeed, this introduction to and familiarity 
with the great poets was the end and object of the training 
given by the ypafxfxaTtcrTrjs. 7 Sometimes, in addition to poetry, 
the pupils learned and recited the laws of their country, with 
which they thus became early familiar. 

1 De admir. vi dicendi in Demosth. 52. 

2 Inscr. Ceramiques, p. 405. 

3 Protag. p. 326 D. 4 Demosth. de Corona, p. 313. 

5 For representations of writing materials see Schreiber, pi. xci. 

6 Xenoph. Sympos. iii. 5. 

7 In teaching the Homeric poems, the schoolmasters of Alexandria used 
a curious aid to memory in the form of marble tablets engraved with 
scenes from the epic. Some of these Tabulw Iliacce are engraved in 
Schreiber, pi. xcii,-iii, 


It seems doubtful whether arithmetic was taught at all at 
school, in earlier times not being supposed to have ethical value. 
If it was, the instruction must have been very elementary, as 
we find even adults reckoning on their fingers or by the help 
of counters. A reckoning board (abacus) 1 was often used, of 
which the rows contained counters, the value of which counters 
varied with their position, being at times greater, at times 
smaller ; whence Solon 2 wittily compared to them the officers 
and favourites of tyrants. 

The musical education, which began later than the gram- 
matical, perhaps about the thirteenth year, differed entirely 
from ours, inasmuch as a technical knowledge of music and 
mastery of the instrument was neither required nor desired. 
The object was a moral one, namely, to acquaint the learners 
with the songs of the great lyrical poets, 3 with a view to their 
ethical improvement. These songs it was the business of a 
gentleman to be able to sing, accompanying himself on the lyre. 
The flute was also taught in Athens in earlier times, but fell out 
of use there in the fifth century, being retained only in the less 
cultivated Bceotia. The young Alcibiades was, we are told, a 
leader in the revolt of the boys against it, since distended 
cheeks interfered with beauty. It was owing to the influence 
of Pamphilus, 4 head of the Sicyonian school of painting, that 
drawing was introduced into Greek schools in the fourth 
century as one of the recognised branches of education. Pro- 
bably it was in most cases only carried far enough to help the 
learner to appreciate the works of art of which every Greek city 
began in those days to be full. 

A charming artistic representation of the Greek school is 
furnished us by a vase of the painter Duris, dating from the 
middle of the fifth century, which is figured as our frontispiece. 5 
On one side of this vase we have an elementary class. To the 
right sits a pedagogue waiting for his young charges, who are 
receiving instruction from two beardless teachers : one of these 
teachers is correcting with a stylus an exercise written on wax 
tablets ; the other performs on the flute an accompaniment to 
the song of his pupil. 

On the other side of the vase the pedagogue is seated as 
before, but both teachers and pupils are of maturer years. 
One of the boys is learning the fingering of the lyre, the other 

1 Such a reckoning board is figured in Baumeister's Denkmaler, p. 143] 

2 Diog. Laert. i. 59. 3 Plato, Protwj. p. 326 a. 
4 Plin. 35, 36. 6 Mon. dclV Inst. ix. 54. 


is reciting from memory a passage of epic poetry, whereof the 
first line may be seen on the scroll in his teacher's hands, 
Motxra fxoi a/x^)t ^KOLfiavSpov kvpoov apyppJ delSetv. Against 
the wall of the school hang a variety of scholastic necessaries, 
lyre and flute, wax tablets and papyrus rolls, a drawing square 
and drinking cups. The modest dress and demeanour of the 
pupils is very noteworthy. 

Intellectual training was supplemented by physical, and as the 
object of the former was to produce a sound mind imbued with 
good principles, so the object of the latter was to produce a 
well-proportioned and healthy body. This physical education 
was carried on by a class of men called 7rat8oTpt/3aL at their 
palaestrae, which seem to have been private buildings, and must 
be distinguished from the public gymnasia where men and 
youths exercised. To these palaestrae boys were taken by their 
pedagogues at certain hours of the day, and exercised in 
running, leaping, and wrestling. 

The severer exercises, such as boxing and the pancratium, were 
not encouraged in early times ; the pancratium for boys was 
not introduced at Olympia until the second century B.C. 1 All 
Greeks thought highly of the value of physical training. Aris- 
totle observes that it should begin as early as the seventh year, 
while Plato remarks that the mental training of boys should 
not be begun until their bodies have attained a certain strength 
and solidity by means of gymnastic. In addition to the above- 
mentioned exercises swimming was taught early and universally 
at Athens. Another most important branch of physical educa- 
tion was dancing, which was practised in connection with the 
festivals of the gods and the representation of tragedies. The 
training of a chorus was one of the most usual liturgies at Athens. 
At Sparta a special part of the Agora was marked off, where at 
the Gymnopaedia the Spartan youths danced before the people. 
Athletic sports did not specially flourish at Sparta, the Boeotians 
surpassing in these exercises the Lacedaemonians, but special 
care was devoted to the training of boys in hardihood and the 
capacity to resist pain. For one whole year (the thirteenth) 
the boys of Sparta had to go barefoot and without an inner 
garment, and to abstain from washing. 

After the Grammatistes and Paedotribes had brought to an 
end the introductory course of education, boys of the poorer 
class had at once to set about some occupation or trade. The 
children of wealthier parents would ordinarily continue their 

1 Pausan. v. 8, II. 


studies, either at the house of a ypappaTLKos, who taught 

rhetoric, \ try, and perhaps philosophy, or under teachers of 

special subjects. We know that in the time of Plato well- 
instructed young men usually knew something of geometry ; 
and certainly attention was given to geography, the study of 
which was lightened by the use of maps (TrcVaKes), and to 
astronomy. On approaching manhood, a youth would often 
attach himself to some celebrated rhetorician or some eminent 
sophist, and attend his lectures, paying frequently large sums 
for the privilege. In the later ages, at Alexandria, there was 
a sort of tyxvKktos inu&ia, or university course, consisting of 
seven branches, grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, music, 
geometry, astronomy ; but of course such organisation of study 
belongs to a learned age and place, and could never have been 
enjoyed but by the few. 

The inscriptions of later Greece reveal to us in various places 
the existence of a complete system of education, in which the 
teachers were functionaries of the state, receiving public pay. 
An inscription of Teos 1 records a system of unusual complete- 
ness. At the head of education were set a yvpvaa-iap^os and a 
7rcu8ovd//os, who must be not less than forty years old. Three 
teachers were yearly elected to instruct both boys and girls 
in ypdjLjxara, who received respectively 600, 550, and 500 
drachms, large salaries in antiquity. Two 7rai8orptftai received 
each 500 drachms, and a musician, KidapL<rTy')s 7) xj/dXTrjs, re- 
ceived 700 drachms for instructing Ephebi and boys in the 
arts of the palaestra and of music. Teachers were also pro- 
vided in drilling, spear- throwing, and archery ; and an annual 
examination or exhibition took place. 

At Athens a system of education, probably still more com- 
plete, grew up in Hellenistic times. Boys who reached the age 
of sixteen became for two years Trpdo-Ti/^oi, and attended lectures 
at the Aioyevetov. And further, all the sons of citizens were 
compelled, on attaining their eighteenth year, to enter upon a 
t w 1 > years' course of training under properly constituted officers. 
The history and nature of this training, which began to be in 
use as early as the time of Thucydides, and afterwards became 
more highly developed, are set forth in M. Dumont's essay, 
UEphebie Attique. It would appear that on entering on the 
course of discipline the Ephebi of the year appeared at the 
Temple of Aglaurus, and took an oath not to disgrace their 
arms, and not to suffer their mother-city to be diminished. 

1 Dittenberger, Sylloge, No. 349. 


At the same time occurred their SoKL/Mwia or examination, at 
which no doubt the state of their health and the purity of their 
descent were investigated. Strangers were, however, enrolled 
in their ranks, at all events after the second century B.C., 
though it appears that they were not eligible for election to 

The Epheby was originally a political and military institu- 
tion. The youths in training were the last line of the Athenian 
reserves, and were specially retained, like our household guards, 
for purposes of police in the Athenian city and district, and to 
escort the Eleusinian procession, and assist in the other great 
city pomps. The Museum was by a decree of the people com- 
mitted to them to guard. 

But it naturally came about that when the autonomy of 
Athens ended, and the reputation of the city as the home of 
science and art went on rising, the system of Ephebi became a 
kind of university training. The Ephebi lived in cantonments 
in the neighbourhood of Athens, but to the city they had con- 
stantly to come, being required to be present in arms at the 
meetings of the Ecclesia, as well as to undergo at least three 
reviews (<x7ro8€i^€is) a year, one at the festival of the Theseia, 
one at that of the Epitaphia, and one of a more testing char- 
acter. Their supreme officer, who was always a man high in 
station and family and character, was the Koo-pjrqs, who was 
elected by the people, and who gave account on the expiration 
of his office. Under him were the irai8oTpi/3r)<s, the o7rA.o/xa^o5, 
together with the aKovTwrnjs, the ro^orrjs, and other masters 
in special branches. From this enumeration it may be judged 
that the physical training of the Ephebi was made of much 
account. Their exercises were primarily of a warlike character, 
archery and javelin-throwing, and boat-racing ; but to these 
were added contests of a more peaceful character, torch-races 
both on foot and on horseback, running and wrestling. 

But the physical exercises of the Ephebi did not supersede 
moral and mental training. The Cosmetes was bound to 
educate them in habits of virtue and modesty. They also 
attended courses of lectures at the Gymnasium called the 
Diogeneion, and in inscriptions it is frequently recorded to the 
praise of a Cosmetes that he gave great care to the studies of 
his charges in philosophy and science. Plutarch 1 says that the 
course of study of Ephebi consisted of ypapfiara, geometry, 
rhetoric, and music. Philosophy was included under y/aa/zLtara. 

1 Quces. Conviv. ix. I. 


Prizes were also given for Trovqfia and eyKio/uov. The students 
sang in processions and made speeches at the ' AXwa. 

Even from this slight sketch the reader may judge that 
Athens contained in her decline a university worthy of her 
fame, and one which combined the advantages of military 
training with those of intellectual education. We cannot 
wonder that many Greeks from outside Greece, Phoenicians, 
and even Romans, sent their sons to participate in so healthy 
a discipline. On the manners of the students themselves the 
inscriptions throw some light. Thus we find that both Gym- 
nasiarch and Agonothetes of the Ephebi belonged usually 
themselves to that class, and not only served at their own cost, 
but even assisted to defray the general expenses of the college. 
Among themselves the students formed ties as close as those 
which unite German and American students. Two Ephebi 
would formally adopt one another as <f>t\oi or dSeA^ot, or a 
set of students would form a group as o-vvk^fioi ; and one 
would sometimes make a dedication to another under the name 
of a god, whence we find such inscriptions as 'HpaKkd Kanrumw 
or Ntyept. 



Greek social life tended more and more to centre in the 
palaestra and the gymnasium. In a specially appropriated set 
of these the physical training of boys was conducted, con- 
currently with their mental training at the school. But when 
they became Ephebi, that is, attained the age of eighteen, they 
began to frequent the great public institutions. It is doubtful 
what is the exact difference between the gymnasium and the 
palaestra, but it is probable that the latter was a more primitive 
and smaller building, serving specially for the training of 
wrestlers and boxers. The earliest gymnasia were merely open 
spaces near a river and surrounded by trees, but they came 
by degrees to contain rooms constructed for various kinds of 
exercises, as well as a course for running and shady walks and 
seats for recreation and refreshment. Socrates carried on his 
discussions in the market-place, but some of the successors of 
Socrates formed their schools in one or another of the great 
gymnasia, where they found shelter, plenty of space, and an 
audience quite at leisure. 


In Homeric times we find the use of baths ordinary. A cold 
plunge in a river was not a luxury reserved for men, but prac- 
tised by women also, even princesses like Helen and Nausicaa. 
Warm baths were to be had in the house of every chief, and 
when a guest arrived, one of the first things was to furnish 
him with a bath, which he sometimes took in the great hall 
or fxeyapov, but more usually in the special bath-room. He 
seated himself naked in a large vessel called ao-dpivOos, and 
an attendant, sometimes the lady of the house or one of her 
slaves, poured water over his head and shoulders. This water 
was usually warm, and intended to refresh a hero after toil and 
fatigue. After washine, the attendant would anoint the bather 
with oil and put his clothes on. We must be careful to avoid 
the notion that the Greeks had, in earlier and simpler days, 
great bath-houses fitted with apparatus, and containing a 
number of rooms, like those of the Romans, or like the modern 
Turkish bath. Such luxuries were not known to them. To 
bathe in warm water at all, except after great fatigue, was re- 
garded by simple and old-fashioned people as effeminate. Thus 
in the Clouds the AUaios Aoyos advises Pheidippides to abstain 
from the 9eppd Xovrpd, and the reason he gives is ortr) kolkuttov 
kcrri Kol SaXov 7rotet rbv dvSpa. 1 So the Spartans, according 
to Plutarch, 2 were XovrpOtv koX dXeLpfxaTiov aTretpoi. Elaborate 
systems of bathing in hot and cold water, like those of the 
Romans, belong only to Hellenistic times. The hot-air bath 
did not become usual until a late period. It would appear 
from the paintings on vases that even the public baths 
(called on the vases cfy/zoa-ia) were very simple in their arrange- 
ments. A large vase or cauldron was placed in the middle of 
a room and filled with water. The bathers stood round it, and 
with their hands or vessels poured the water over them- 
selves, or it might be poured over them by comrades or 
slaves, falling on the floor, which was no doubt of stone, and 
running away. The water thus used might be cold or warm ; 
but the cold bath was generally enjoyed in the form of a 
plunge or a douche, the bather standing under a spout which 
discharged cold water. At the Thermae or natural hot-springs 
the warm water was similarly conveyed in pipes and ad- 
ministered in the form of a douche. Sometimes prepared 
earth, ko via, o-pj-y/xara, was used to assist the cleansing 
action of the water. After rubbing most of the moisture off 
with his hands, the bather would pass into another room or 

1 Clouds, IO45. 2 Lycurg. 16. 



the open air and anoint himself with olive-oil or more ex- 
pensive unguents, and scrape his whole body with the strigil, 
<rrAeyyi s \ He would then resume his clothes. The /3aXav€vs 
or bathing-man would receive a small fee, kirlXovrpov. 

When cities came to possess great gymnasia adapted for 
various exercises, parts of these were set apart for bathing, and 
large rooms assigned to the various operations. Thus we find 
mention in later writers of an aTro&vr-qpiov or room for undress- 
ing, an kkaiodkcriov or aXetirri)piov, a place for rubbing with oil, a 

Fig. 18.— Men Bathing. 1 

Trvpiarr'ipLov or dry sweating-bath, warm and cold baths, &c., all 
of which were no doubt used in later and more sophisticated 
times in the training of athletes. But these baths were in sub- 
ordination to the general purposes of the gymnasia, of which we 
must give a brief and general account. 

The excavations at Pompeii have brought to light both baths 
and palaestra?. The former are Roman rather than Greek in 
character ; but the palaestra was essentially a Greek institution 

1 Gerhard, A userlesene Vasenb. pi. 277. 


and passed into Southern Italy in pre-Roraan days. One of 
the Pompeian palaestrae in particular seems to have belonged to 
the old Oscan existence of the city, 1 for in its colonnade was 
found a sundial with an Oscan inscription, which recorded how 
it was made from fines incurred in the exercises of the palaestra. 
It consists of an open court with pillared walks and seats on 
three sides ; on the fourth side was a strip of pavement, on which 
lay, when the spot was excavated, two heavy stone balls, which 
had clearly been used to test the strength of the athletes. At 
the side of this court is a cold bath, on either side of which are 
rooms with earthen floors, conjectured to be the olttoSvt^plov, 
kkaioOzo-iov, and Kovicmj/oiov. Other rooms near by are sup- 
posed to have been the coryceum, exedrae, and so forth. 

Still more valuable evidence as to the arrangements of the 
palaestra has been furnished by the excavations at Olympia. 
Outside the Altis were found the foundations of a building 
erected in Hellenistic times to serve as a training and practising 
place for athletes. 2 The arrangements are similar to those at 
Pompeii, but more elaborate. Round the court runs a portico, 
the entire length of which is a stadium, 600 Greek feet ; and 
from the portico open out a variety of rooms to be used for 
cold bathing and for various exercises. Within the court, as 
at Pompeii, was a strip paved with tiles. Out of this palaestra 
opened a great gymnasium, on one side of which was a covered 
stadium for use in wet weather (see Plan of Altis, p. 171). It 
is pointed out by Wernicke (Arch. Jahrbuch, 1894) that this 
whole construction resembles the later Greek gymnasium de- 
scribed by Vitruvius. 

The gymnasium, he says, contains a great peristyle, the row 
of columns double towards the south, to keep off the wind. 
Adjoining this south corridor was a large room with seats, the 
Ephebeum or hall appropriated to the Ephebi. About it were 
grouped, in addition to the bath-rooms, the Coryceum, in which 
was suspended the KupvKos, a sack filled with chaff for those 
who practised boxing to buffet to and fro ; the Conisterium, 
in which the athletes were probably sprinkled, according to 
custom, with fine sand (grjpaXoifatv) ; the Sphaeristerium, a long 
narrow hall appropriated to the games of ball ; and so forth. 
There were also halls (efeS/xu) appropriated by philosophers, 
rhetoricians, and others, who there gathered their pupils about 
them. All these rooms together formed the central edifice, 

1 For a plan of it see Overbade, Pompeii, p. 193, Schreiber, pi. lix. 

2 Ausgrabungen, v. pi. 38. 


which was surrounded on all sides by the broad corridor or 
peristyle already mentioned. From these colonnades in the 
larger gymnasia ^varoi led olf, covered spaces consisting of a 
raised platform all round for the spectators and a depressed 
central part for the athletes themselves. In these xysti and the 
peristyle took place the wrestling, leaping, boxing, javelin-throw- 
ing, and the like. This arrangement was very necessary, as 
spectators in carefully arranged clothes thronged the gymnasia, 
and it would not have done for them to be brought into contact 
with the oiled and sanded bodies of the struggling athletes. 
On the borders of the grounds of the gymnasium was usually 
a stadium or running-ground. The superfluous parts of the 
grounds not required for any exercise were laid out in pleasant 
walks, where in fine weather teachers of philosophy could walk 
with their pupils and friends enjoy each other's society. 

Of the exercises carried on in the palaestra we must give a 
short account. 

The oldest of all competitions was the Spofxos or o-raSiov. 
The Spofxos consisted in running once the length of the stadium, 
600 Greek feet, which are nearly equivalent to the English. 
It was a contest in which swiftness of foot and suppleness of 
limb carried the day. The Greeks regarded rubbing with oil 
as an important, indeed a necessary preparation for it. Their 
running was unlike ours in some respects, if we may judge 
from vase-pictures. They advanced by a succession of bounds, 
swinging the arms violently to urge themselves forward, and 
moving on the tips of the toes. 

In the double race, SiauAos, the runners turned at the post 
at the end of the course, and finished at the starting-post. In 
the SoXlxos the length of the course was traversed twelve, 
twenty, or twenty-four times. These races tested the endur- 
ance of the runners no less than their speed. In running a 
long distance, as the vases testify, Greek runners kept their 
arms stiff at their sides, as do modern athletes, and did not 
move them violently, as in the short Sp6fxo<s. In running, as in 
the other contests, the competitors were absolutely naked ; and 
so far were the Greeks from being ashamed of this custom, that 
they even boasted of it, and ridiculed as barbarians those who 
thought any sort of clothing desirable. To prevent excessive 
perspiration under the burning sun they anointed their bodies 
with oil ; and lest this should make them too slippery, those at 
least who were to contend in wrestling and the pancratium 
were sprinkled with fine sand. 

The wrestling cannot have greatly differed from that of the 


English, or that of the Turks, who seem to inherit their pre- 
dilection for the sport in a direct line from the Greeks. The 
opposed athletes stood face to face, and would advance, retire, 
and feint for a long time with a view to getting a more 
favourable grip, which was of course the better part of the 
battle. He who threw his opponent three times, which was 
termed T/3iay/xos, was regarded as winner. There may, how- 
ever, be a doubt as to what precisely was meant by throwing. 
We hear not only of irdXr] opSt) (opdoirdXrD^ or face-to-face 
wrestling, but of olXivSyjo-ls, or continuing the contest on the 
ground. Certainly the Greeks allowed some very strange pro- 
ceedings, such as disjointing an opponent's fingers. Wrestlers 
were noted for their bulk, even fleshiness not being considered 
a drawback in this kind of contest. The pentathlum has been 
perhaps more discussed and more often misunderstood than 
any other competition. 1 The contests included under the term 
were mentioned by Simonides in a well-known pentameter 
verse, dXpa 7ro8(i)K€tr]v Slctkov olkovto. TrdXrjv. Three of these 
were peculiar to the pentathlum, namely, leaping, throwing 
the discus, and hurling the javelin, exercises carried on, as the 
illustration shows, to the sound of the flute. The other two, 
wrestling and running, were apparently introduced to make 
the test more general. In the pentathlum, as Pollux 2 ex- 
pressly states, he who won three events was regarded as victor, 
€7rt 8e TrevraOXov to viKrjcraL airorpla^ai Xkyovcrt • or as Plutarch 3 
puts it, reus rpuriv, iocnrep ol TrkvraBXot TrepucrTi kolI vikcl. Thus 
the contest often stopped short in its earlier phases, and the 
test of wrestling, which came last in order, was seldom resorted 
to. The pentathlum was in great favour in Greece, and those 
who excelled in it were regarded as the princes of athletes, and 
no wonder, considering how admirably the exercises it involved 
must needs have developed the entire frame. The leap which 
belonged to the pentathlum was apparently a standing long 
jump. We are perplexed by the tales of the success of young 
athletes in this exercise : Phayllus of Rhegium, for instance, is 
said to have covered more than fifty feet, which is impossible ; 
but the number may have been corrupted. A feature of the 
Greek leaping was the dA/nj/aes or dumb-bells, of which the 
jumper held one in each hand. He first held them out straight 
in front of him, and then as he sprang brought them behind 
him, thus helping to propel the body forward. The discus 

1 I have written more in detail as to the pentathlum in the Journ. Hdl. 
Stud. vol. i. 2 iii. 151. 3 Symp. ix. 2, 2. 



was a flat round slab of stone, or more usually of bronze, of 
considerable weight. Some of these are still preserved in our 
museums. The manner of propelling them may be studied in 
the extant copies of Myron's celebrated statue representing a 
Discobolus. In this case, of course, the longest throw carried 
the day. But in the allied exercise of spear-throwing it seems 
likely that a mark had to be aimed at. The spear was propelled 
by the aid of a thong attached to it, which served also to im- 
part to it a rotatory motion. 

A great deal has been said against the brutality of Greek 

Fig. 19.— The Discus and Spear. (Gerhard, Auserl. Vasenb. 272. 

boxing, not without some reason. The hands of the boxers 
were enclosed in a framework of leather, but in early times 
this leather was only undressed ox-hide ; it was a late period 
which saw the addition of a ridge of hard leather. In fact, 
the Greek i/xavTes used in early times for protecting the hands 
of bcxers perhaps tended rather to soften than to intensify a 
blow ; and their very name, /mAi'xat, indicates that they were 
no cruel weapons. That they were long used in the great 
games is expressly stated by Pausanias. 1 But of course, in spite 

v 1 1 1 . 40, 3. 


of precautions, the boxers suffered severely in nose and mouth 
and ears. 

The pancratium was the least humane of Greek sports. In 
it two antagonists were put together to struggle with blows or 
wrestling, erect or on the ground, until one confessed himself 
vanquished. Even here not everything was allowed ; for instance, 
it was against the laws to strike with clenched fist or to use 
the teeth. But an ordinary means of winning the day was to 

Fig. 20. — Boxers. (Gerhard, Auserl. Vasenb. pi. 271.) 

dislocate the limbs of an adversary, to suffocate him by throttling, 
or so injure him as to render him incapable of continuing the 
conflict. The pancratiasts were the most powerful class of 
athletes ; and to see them rolling together on the ground, 
twisting one another's arms or compressing one another's 
throats, must have been a brutal spectacle. 

Certain other social exercises of the Greeks, which were 
not connected with the great games, demand notice, as some 
of them were connected with religious observance, and others 



were undoubtedly practised as a training for war. First among 
these must be mentioned the armed race, which men ran carry- 
ing shields and wearing helmets. JS T ext there is the torch-race, 
the object in which was to carry a lighted torch as rapidly as 
possible unextinguished to the goal. The torch was sometimes 
borne by detached runners, as in the Panathensea at Athens, 
when t<»n lies were carried by racing Ephebi from the altar of 
l'r.nnetheus at the Academy to the city. 1 Sometimes long 

Fig. 31. — AHMED Runners Preparing to Start. (Gerhard, Auserl. 
Vascnb. pi. 261.) 

lines of youths were arranged so that each member of the line 
carried the torch but a short distance and then passed it on to 
his neighbour, a game to which Herodotus (viii. 98) compares 
the system of dyyapyftov, by which royal messages were carried 
in Persia. In this case a squad was victorious, and the leader, 
XdjiTrdSap^os, was crowned. 

Dancing was also usual as a part <>f many religious festivals. 
Sometimes it was merely of a symbolical or imitative character, 
as in the ease of the bear-dance, danced by girls in honour of 
the Artemis of Brauron. But often the dance constituted in 

Pans. i. 30, 2. 


Greece, as it still does among barbarians, a valuable training 
for war. Xenophon x depicts the contrast between the Thracian 
war-dance, which consisted in feats of activity and fencing to 
the sound of the flute, and the Arcadian war-dance, in which a 
body of men advanced in line, while the flutes played a march, 
and sang a paean. 

There were also, especially in later Greece, many kinds of 
competition, with the bow, throwing the spear on horseback, 
discharging the catapult, and the like, which came very near 
to our military sports. Boat-races were also by no means 
unusual in Greece, 2 though the boats were of course sea-going 
craft, not the light racing boats of modern days. And of all 
exercises, that which was most approved among the military 
tribes was hunting, in all respects the best training for war. 
Highly organised competitions in sport, like our cricket and 
football, did not exist in antiquity, nor would they be likely, 
to flourish among peoples to whom the experience of war was 
usual. They represent rather the lighter play among peaceful 
nations of the faculties which among military peoples find a 
sterner employment. 

It is to be observed that a certain change came over the 
estimate of the games during the Peloponnesian war. Com- 
petition in them became more and more of a science, and the 
winners were rather professionals than gentlemen. In Homer's 
time only chiefs compete ; in Pindar's time the noblest houses 
in Greece send their sons ; but after that the social standing of 
the competitors decreased. The first Alexander of Macedon 
contended in the foot-race ; the third declined unless he could 
have kings for his competitors. At the same time Plato and 
Euripides heap a great deal of abuse on athletes. They are 
described as sleepy, lazy, and brutal. It is probable that 
excessive training spoiled the competitors for anything but the 
contests for which they trained. No one spoke against athletics 
so long as they partook of the nature of education or relaxation ; 
but when they became the main purpose of the lives of men 
who were willing to sacrifice everything to them, they lost 
honour and dignity. 

1 Anabasis, vi. I. 

2 Joum. Hell. Stud. ii. 90, 315. 




The Greeks, that is, the Greek men, during all the best and 
brightest periods of their history, lived very much in public. 
Their private houses were, ;is we have seen, small and mean ; it 
was od their temples, their agoras, and their theatres that they 
bestowed their chief care, and in these they passed their time 
in s.nial intercourse. Only women and children remained at 
home, except at the times of eating and sleeping. 

With dawn the Greek would leave his sleeping-cell, and, after 
washing his face and swallowing a few moutlifuls of bread with 
unmixed wine, uK/xxTiayxa, would adjust his dress and step out 
into the street. The early hours would be spent either in 
visits or in exercise at a gymnasium. Time was not, of course, 
closely measured, as with us, since the Greeks had no watches, 
but the gnomon or sundial and the water-clock were quite 
sufficient for rough division of the hours. The readier means 
of judging the hour by observing the height of the sun would 
be quite accurate enough for ordinary folk. 

Visits were usually made very early, in order that the person 
visited should not have left the house. When Hippocrates 1 
calk on Socrates to induce him to go and visit Protagoras, he 
comes so early that Socrates insists on waiting for daylight 
before starting, remarking that as Protagoras spends much of 
his time indoors, they will probably not miss him. So the 
two take a turn together in the avA?} and converse for a time. 
Yet, when they reach the house where Protagoras is staying, 
they and it full of visitors, and the porter already tired of 
letting them in. 

Towards the third hour of the day, 2 which was the time of 
full market, Tr\'ij6ov<ra dyopd or dyopds 7r\.y]6iop-)], the human 
tide began to set in that direction. The men nocked along 
the streets, not alone, but in pairs or groups, and as each met 
a friend, the frequent x a W* or d(T7rd£ofia.L or vyiaive would be 
heard. : This word of greeting sufficed between acquaintances, 
for giving the hand meant more than it does with us, and 
bowing was regarded as barbarian and slavish. The market 

1 Plato, Prot. p. 311. 2 Herod, ii. 173, &c. Of. Suidas, s. v. 

a 2iTpe\J/id5rii> a<jira$oiiai.. Clouds, 1. 1 145. 

324 '*HE COURSE OF LtFti 

soon became a crowded place of meeting. Some men would 
be purchasing their provisions for the day, for the Greeks of 
all times have loved bargaining, and with them men did all 
the shopping, though the wealthy kept special slaves, called 
agorastse, to purchase for them. Porters, 7rpovv€iKoi, were at 
hand to carry home the wares of those who had no slaves. 
Citizens would converse in groups, telling the news or entering 
on discussions. Others would throng the temples, the law- 
courts, or the leschae (porticoes), which were always built close 
by the market. Near the Agora also were the shops of the 
barbers and unguent-sellers, which were usual and fashionable 
lounges. Other shopkeepers and artisans clustered in the same 
neighbourhood, and their houses and booths were full in the 
morning of those who wished to buy, as well as of those 
who only wished to see. In very hot weather, and in cold 
or rainy weather, in fact at all times when the open Agora 
was unpleasant, the crowd tended towards the covered cor- 
ridors and the shops. We even learn from the oration of 
Lysias against Pancleon that the inhabitants of particular 
demes and districts of Attica were to be found usually to- 
gether in well-known spots in the Athenian Agora or its 

People usually went home for the mid-day meal, /Aeo-?//z/?/Hvdv, 
and in order, not to sleep, but to rest a little in the heat of the 
day. The afternoon was the great time for the baths and 
gymnasia, which were among the most prominent features of 
Greek life. In all towns there were plenty of baths, both 
public and private. Their use was closely connected with 
physical training and preparation for the great agonistic con- 
tests. But most Greek gentlemen who were not incapacitated 
by age or infirmity would spend at least part of the afternoon 
in the exercises of the gymnasium and in bathing. As a 
special chapter is devoted to the details of this physical culture, 
we will pass on to other matters. 

Of course there were other resorts for those of the Greeks 
who did not care to partake in or to witness athletic contests. 
The Kovpdov or barber's shop furnished a common lounge for 
morning or afternoon. The Greek fops were very careful of 
their persons, and the barber was prepared not only to cut and 
dress their hair and to trim their beards, but also to trim their 
nails, cut their corns, and provide rough remedies for any small 
physical defect. And those who did not stand in need of the 
barber's art were often desirous of talking with his customers, 
whence Theophrastus applies to barbers' shops the phrase 


ao/i'd (TV/iirocria. 1 Less innocent rivals of the Kovpeta were tlie 
KvjScia, houses for gambling, which were also called o-Kipa<fieiu, 
because Athena Sciraa was originally the patroness of dice- 
throwing, which, in fact, seems to have gone on in her temple. 
This fact need not in any way surprise us ; in Greece many 
worse forms of self-indulgence than gambling were under the 
special patronage 1 of a deity, A number of astragali and dice, 
some of the latter unfairly loaded, have come down to us from 
antiquity, and soldiers are sometimes represented on vases as 
tossing dice. But dice were not the only means of gambling 
possessed by the Greek fops. They were accustomed to bet 
heavily on the contests of quails and cocks, which were kept 
for the purpose of lighting at the Kv/Seia. The wealthiest class 
of citizens also devoted much attention to chariot-driving and 
horse-racing, both of which pursuits were carried on by no 
means with sole reference to the great festivals. 

We must not fail to observe, also, how large a proportion of 
the time of the Greek citizen was taken up with the exercises 
of religion ; the continually recurring festivals occupied him 
while they lasted from morning to night, and when they were 
Dot present, the preparation for them, the training of choruses, 
and the like, occupied a great deal of time. In democratic 
Btatea also, such as Athens, the political duties of each burgher 
afforded him constant employment. 

There were continual meetings at the Pnyx ; besides which, 
if we consider the constitution of such bodies as the /3ovh) and 
the dicasteries, we shall see how large a proportion of the 
inhabitants of a democratically-governed city must have been 
constantly employed in keeping the wheels of the state re- 
volving. But on these heads, as they are sufficiently treated 
of elsewhere, there is no need to enlarge. 

I n X mi i] »h( m's CEconomicus, Tschomachus, a wealthy Athenian, 
is made to declare that he spends every morning in walking to 
his farm, superintending the agricultural operations there, and 
practising riding and leaping on horseback. This is probably 
a rare type ; but many of the gilded youth might pass the 
early hours of the day in chariot-driving or riding for pleasure. 
The charms of the country would always attract some men more 
than the more social pleasures of the city. 

In the gymnasium, either as actor or spectator, the Greek 
citizen often spent those afternoons not claimed by the Pnyx, 
the Dicasteries, or the Agora, or by the observances proper 

1 Quoted by Plutarch, Symp. v. 5. 


to one of the many sacred festivals. Afterwards he would 
usually have a bath. At the bath a slave would meet him 
with o-piy/xara, oil-flask, a strigil, and perhaps a change of 
raiment. After carefully arranging or changing his dress he 
would set out to dine, usually in the company of friends ; and 
with dinner and the subsequent drinking-bout the day would 
usually end, for those who did not care for study. But those 
who pursued any learned avocation, such as that of the author, 
the physician, and the advocate, had to avoid or curtail their 
midnight revels, and instead to devote their time to more 
serious pursuits. As the day was taken up by social claims 
and life lived in public, the evening hours were those of most 
use to a student, and his productions would necessarily smell 
of the midnight oil. 

Like all the peoples of Southern Europe, the Greeks were 
on the whole very abstemious in eating and drinking. In 
Homeric times they were less so than afterwards. Odysseus J 
declares to Alcinoiis that the summit of human happiness 
consists in sitting at a table covered with bread and meat and 
wine and listening to the voice of a bard. In early times, 
also, tastes were far less refined. The suitors of Penelope 
devour great quantities of hog's flesh, and set before Irus and 
Odysseus as a prize for boxing a great black-pudding full of 
fat and blood. The heroes at Troy live mostly on oxen and 
sheep. Of vegetable food at that time we hear very little, 
and fish seems not to have been eaten by them at all. 2 The 
chiefs ate onions to flavour their wine, and the wine itself 
was doubtless of a character far too sour and rough for the 
more delicate tastes of their descendants. 

Later there were great differences in the matter of eating 
between various Greek races. The Boeotians were noted for 
their great appetites and their coarse feeding, which procured 
them the name of swine ; the Greeks of Sicily and South 
Italy were no less devoted to the pleasures of the table, but 
far more fastidious in their tastes. But perhaps the most 
abstemious of all Greeks were the people of Athens and Sparta, 
whose diet must be described. The comic poet Lynceus thus 
describes a dinner at Athens : 3 " One brings in a great dish 
in which are five smaller ones ; the first contains garlic, the 
second two sea-urchins, the third a sweet meal-cake, the fourth 
ten oysters, the fifth a little sturgeon. While I eat one, my 

1 Odys. ix. 5-10. 2 Cf. however, Od. xix. 113. 

3 Athenceus, iv. p. 132. 


neighbour makes another disappear ; while he eats one, I 
despatch another. Gladly, my friend, would I partake of both, 
hut my wish is not attainable, as my mouth is not fivefold." 
Plato, in the Republic, allows for food, bread and barley-broth, 
together with olives, cheese, &c. The abstemiousness recom- 
mended by Plato was no doubt greater than that customary 
at Athens, and Lynceus may exaggerate ; but notwithstanding 
there is no doubt that the Athenians lived with extreme 
frugality. The staple of their food was porridge made of 
barley (aAc£iTa), and bread, for which their city was famous, 
together with their native figs, olives, and honey, cheese which 
they imported especially from Sicily, and a number of herbs, 
mallows (fxaXdxf]), cabbages (/xtc/xxvos), beans (Ki'apn), lupines^ 
and the like. In addition to these, every Athenian who could 
afford it had his 6\j/ov, which almost invariably consisted of 
oysters or fresh or salt fish. Fresh fish was caught in large 
quantities in the Phaleric roads ; salt fish (rapt)^]) and oysters 
came mostly from the Propontis and the Euxine ; all were 
excessively cheap at Athens. Sometimes, for a variety, 
sausages or black puddings (dAAavi-es), or a haggis would be 
purchased, and the wealthier classes would get the eels of 
the Copaic lake, or hares and thrushes ; even the flesh of 
lambs or goats. The daily oxpov cost the frugal from an obol 
to half an obol ; and even the extravagant supplied their 
wants for a few pence. The custom prevailed of using oil 
in cooking most dishes. 

Cereal food could be taken, as Benndorf has pointed out, 1 
in three forms : (1) as a sort of barley-broth or porridge; (2) 
M a sort of thin pancake, lightly baked over a charcoal fire and 
rolled up ; (3) as regular loaves made with yeast. No doubt 
the luxurious in cities usually ate leavened bread; but in 
country places, and in early times, as to this day in Asia Minor, 
the soft pancake form was usual. The Spartans adhered to 
the still ruder custom of merely seething their barley in water. 

At Sparta they lived very sparely. Every citizen brought 
to the common table where they dined together, the o-vo-ortVia, 
a monthly contribution consisting of barley-meal, wine, cheese, 
and figs, together with ten obols (about fifteenpence) for the 
purchase of flesh, condiments, &c. The smallness of the sum 
allowed for extras shows that but little flesh or fish can have 
been eaten. The staple of the meal was barley-broth and 
black or blood pudding, /xcAas (wfxos ; but Mount Taygetus was 

1 Altgriech. Brod, in Lranos Vindob. 1 893. 


full of game, and the Spartans good huntsmen ; so they may 
have supplied from this source a welcome supplement to their 
frugal fare. Butter was not used by the inhabitants of Greece 
proper, and though it was made by the Thracians, they seem 
to have employed it more especially for rubbing themselves 

In Homeric times the Greeks had three meals a day. First 
came the apiarrov, which was eaten at dawn, next the Sclttvov, 
which was the mid-day meal, and last the 86p7rov or supper. 
Such seems to have been the rule ; but Homer uses the term 
Sdirvov for meals taken at various times. 

Later the term apiarrov was used for the mid-day meal, and 
dei-Trvov for the evening meal. Early in the morning a little 
bread dipped in unmixed wine was taken, to which refreshment 
the name aKpaTurpa was applied. The apicnov or dejeuner was 
a meal of which people partook each at his own house ; it was 
not social, but seems to have been of a solid character. It 
was probably eaten between nine in the morning and noon, 
according to convenience. The Set-n-vov or dinner was the social 
meal of the day, and was deferred until the day's employments 
were over, often until after sunset. Thus the times and char- 
acters of the Greek meals correspond almost exactly with those 
of the French. 

The Greek women dined at home, and the men would also 
sometimes dine at home with their families, in which case they 
would recline on a couch, and their wives sit beside them. 
More often they met together for a social repast. In the 
Prytaneum at Athens and elsewhere there were public tables, 
at which those who had the right daily sat down. At most 
cities there existed clubs or epavoc, consisting of members who 
gave regular contributions, and had occasional banquets at the 
common expense. Sometimes a set of young men would club 
together to pay the cost of a dinner at the house of a hetaera, 
or of a picnic party in the country or by the seaside. If the 
latter place was chosen, they called their excursion aKra^cv. 
But naturally the most usual plan was for an individual to 
invite his friends and give them a dinner at his own cost, 
hoping for a like return. 

The number of guests at a Greek dinner-party was not so 
strictly regulated as at a Roman, and it was by no means 
unusual for persons to present themselves uninvited. Thus 
Lucian 1 says of Demonax that he went to dinner where he 

1 Demon. 63. 


pleased and was welcome. Guests were expected before going 
to a banquet to take a bath and pay some attention to their 
toilet, though there was, of course, no special evening dress. 
As soon as they arrived the attendants removed their shoes 
and washed their feet, and they took their places on the 

Fig. 22.— Achilles Dining. 

couches (kAiVcu) in accordance with the directions of their host. 
In historic times the position at meals was a reclining one, 
though sitting had been usual in the heroic ages. It was 
customary to lie on the left side, and to support the left elbow 
with a cushion (irpovKetyakaiov) : thus the right hand remained 

1 From a vase, Mov. ddV Inst. viii. 27. Achilles turns away his head 
at the approach of Priam : under his table is the corpse of Hector. 


free to deal with the food. Two persons on each couch seems 
to have been the usual number; but the number of couches 
could be increased at pleasure. Before each couch was placed 
a table with three or with four legs, and on these tables the 
eatables were disposed when brought in. Hence the phrase 
do-cf)€p€Lv rpaire^as. The guests helped themselves from the 
dishes with their fingers, and usually ate, at all events solid 
food, without any other help, though spoons (/>uxrTiAcu) could 
be used in case of need. Hence the necessity for washing the 
hands both before and after meat. Between the courses a piece 
of bread was used for cleansing the fingers (air o parr eo- 6 at). 

Of the Sdirvov a most amusing description, in mock heroic 
verse, is given by the parodist Matron in Athenseus. 1 It con- 
sisted of two parts. In the first little or no wine was drunk, 
but the eatables were handed round one after another until the 
appetites of the guests were satisfied. This seems to have soon 
taken place ; and we find in Greece no parallel to the elaborate 
courses and gastronomic surprises of a Roman coena. Then 
the guests washed (aTrovixpao-daC), the tables were removed 
(afyaipeiv T/xx7refas), the floor swept of bones, shells, and the 
other debris of the feast. Then the tables were again brought 
in, Sevrepat T/xx7re£cu, and laden with dessert, Tpayrj^ara. In 
earlier times this dessert consisted only of nuts, olives, and figs, 
and cheese, together with salt to stimulate the thirst. 2 In 
later times a quantity of sweetmeats were introduced, as well 
as cakes {irXaKovvni) made with honey, and even so substantial 
food as game, thrushes, and hares. 

But the food brought up at dessert was intended only as an 
accompaniment to the drink. 3 When the libation (a-n-ovSai) to 
the good genius had been poured out, and the guests were all 
adorned with chaplets of flowers, which were handed round in 
due order (e-n-l Se£ia), and worn not on the head only, but also 
round the body, the symposium began. It is a mistake to 
suppose that the Greeks usually drank to an immoderate extent. 
We read indeed of great achievements with the wine -cup 
among the officers of Alexander the Great. Thus we hear that 
the winner of one of his prizes for drinking swallowed about 
thirteen quarts of unmixed wine and died four days after from 
the effects. But the Macedonians owed to their colder climate, 
and probably their Thracian blood, their capacity for drinking ; 

1 Athen. iv. 135-137. 

2 irpbs irorbv 6\poi> doiv oi &\es. Plutarch, Symp. iv. 4, 3. 

3 Xenoph. Symp. ii. I. 



the people of Hellas were more delicately organised. The later 
Greeks found the Pramnian wine, which was a favourite with 
the Homeric heroes, far too rough for their taste, and ridiculed 
the old custom which had prevailed of eating onions with wine 
to give it a flavour. Yet the Greeks of heroic times seem not 
to have been immoderate. When Odysseus gets some strong 

Fig. 23.— Symposium, from a Vase. (Wiener Vorlcgebl. vi. 10.) 

wine from Maron in Thrace, he mixes it with twenty times its 
bulk of water. 1 Hesiod recommends that the proportion of 
one part of wine to three of water should not be exceeded. 
At their banquets all the Greeks, except noted sponges, mixed 
their wine with water, the proportion varying with the strength 
of the wine and the disposition of the drinkers, but the water 

1 Od. ix. 209. 


was generally far more than half the mixture. Zaleucus, the 
legislator of Locri, forbade the drinking of unmixed wine under 
penalty of death, except in case of doctors' orders. 1 The 
Spartans attributed the madness of Cleomenes I. to his habit, 
acquired in Scythia, of drinking wine unmixed. So as Greek 
wine, though rougher, was probably not stronger than our 
Burgundy, it is quite easy to understand how the banqueters 
can have emptied their great kv\lk€s without much incon- 
venience. The luxurious in summer cooled the water for 
mixing with snow and ice, which were at Athens regular 
articles of import, and in winter warmed it. 

With regard to kinds of wine, the Greeks were not such 
connoisseurs as the Romans, nor is it likely that their wine 
was so good. The ancient Greeks, like the modern, had a way 
of mixing resin with their wine, which made it more whole- 
some, and to those accustomed to the flavour not unpleasant. 
There was red wine (/zeAas), which was the strongest, white 
wine (XevKos), which was considered weak and poor, and yellow 
wine (Ktppos), which was supposed to be wholesome and 
digestible. The most noted of all wines was the Chian, but 
Lesbos, Thasos, Cnidus, and Rhodes all had celebrated vintages, 
and every district of Greece produced a coarser sort. How 
plentiful the latter was may be judged from its price. Attic 
wine sold in the time of Demosthenes for four drachms the 
lAerprjTrjs of about nine gallons, or at a penny a quart. We are 
told that in Spain the same quantity of wine would fetch but 
a sixth part of that price. Mendean wine, which was con- 
sidered choice, was sold for two drachms the large amphora, 
vessel included. Chian wine was dearer ; in Socrates' time it 
fetched a mina the metreta ; about two shillings a quart. Wine 
exported was previously mixed with salt water to preserve it, 
and stowed either in skins (olctkol) or in earthen amphoras, 
which were tall thin vessels some four feet in height. 

Greek women of the more respectable sort did not drink 
wine, and shunned excess even with more horror than English- 
women. At Miletus they were forbidden by law to touch wine. 
Of course the tTaipai and flute-players (av\r)Tpi8es) who attended 
drinking-parties indulged freely. 

There were in all cities wine-shops at which the drink could 
be purchased and consumed in company, but they seem to have 
been frequented only by slaves and the lowest of the people. 
Athenaeus says that a member of the Areopagus was expelled 

1 Athen. x. 33. 


from that body because he was seen in a wine-shop. He states, 
too, that there was a law according to which any one who saw 
an archon drunk in public might with impunity kill him. But 
in these, as in other matters of public decency, the bad example 
of Alcibiades produced greater laxity. 

We must, however, return to our drinking-party, which we 
need not describe in detail, since most readers are acquainted 
with the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon, and with the 
excellent description of a drinking-bout in Becker's Charities. 
Nor is any subject more common on ancient vases than scenes 
of eating, drinking, and revelling. 

The first care of the revellers was to elect a ruler of the 
drinking-bout, ap^wv ttjs 7roo-cws, who was determined either 
by casting of lots or by general consent. His function was to 
determine the proportion in which water was to be mixed with 
the wine, to regulate the size of the cups, and see that all drank 
fairly. He also had to assign the penalty to the various guests 
who incurred forfeits in the games which usually accompanied 
drinking. The usual penalty was to drink the contents of a 
large vessel full of unmixed wine, though salt-water was some- 
times substituted. The guests also challenged one another 
(7rpo7TLV€Lv) with large vessels of wine, and it was considered a 
defect both in courtesy and courage to decline to drink off 
a vessel of the same size as that in which one was pledged. 
They also drank round in turn, in the same order in which the 
garlands were served (i-n-l <5e£ia). 

The wine was mixed all at once by the slaves in a great 
Kpa.T7)p of earthenware or metal, and thence transferred with a 
ladle (/<va#os) to the cups. The usual vessels for drinking from 
were kvXlk€s, flat cups with a handle on each side. These were 
made either of earth or metal, and were more capacious than any 
of our wine-glasses. Specimens in painted earthenware are to be 
seen in any museum ; one in bronze is preserved in the British 
Museum. A single finger was passed through one of the 
handles for drinking, and in the game cottabos. For cups there 
were sometimes substituted rhytons, which were formed in the 
shape of animal's heads, but in principle corresponded exactly 
with the old English drinking horn, pouring a continued narrow 
stream into the mouth when the finger which stopped the lower 
end was removed. Immoderate drinkers would sometimes call 
for craters or wine-coolers of prodigious dimensions to show 
their prowess. 

The Greeks were no mere soakers : they usually varied their 
drinking with amusements, sometimes of a lighter, and some- 



times of a more serious character. In turn the feasters, if the 
party were intellectual, would be called on to sing a song, 
o-KoAtov, or to play on the lyre ; or in certain circles each would 
be set to ask a riddle, yplfyos or ouViy/za, of his neighbour, or 
to make a speech on a given subject ; or, as in the Symposium 
of Xenophon, to propound a paradox and to defend it against 

isn*! rairejfaJEsilsilsUgn^ng] 

Fig. 24. — Cottabos, from a Vase. {Ann. d. Inst. 1876, pi. m. 

all comers. Such rhetorical exercises seem to have delighted 
the quick-witted Athenians, and must have been a far better 
amusement than the after-dinner speeches of modern days. 

In less intellectual society the place of these amusements 
would be taken by the game of KOTTa/3os. The details of 
cottabos are obscure, and it seems to have been played in many 


ways, hut in all cases the secret of the game was to he able to 
throw from a drinking-cup, in the handle of which one linger 
was inserted, a compact jet of wine at a given mark. For this 
the drinking-vessels of the Greeks were specially constructed ; 
but it is clear that so long as the drinkers were capable of a 
game which required steadiness and skill of hand they could 
not be intoxicated. Sometimes scenic shows, actors or jugglers 
or acrobats, were brought before the company to amuse them 
with feats of skill. But when drinking was deep, all these 
more staid or intellectual amusements were set aside, and the 
party became often a scene of the wildest excesses, which were 
the worse for the presence of the flute-girls. 1 And when one 
party had reached the stage of frenzy, they would roam about 
the city in the form of a KUfios or roystering band, entering 
all doors which were not rigidly closed, and sometimes even 
forcing their way with axes into the houses of the Hetaerae. 
So the night would sometimes end in the wildest debauchery. 
But the more respectable citizens only gave way to these ex- 
cesses on occasion of the festivals of Dionysus and other deities 
of his class. 

All that was worst in the Greek banquets was encouraged 
by the presence of parasites (koAcxkcs) or professed jesters (yeAwTo- 
7toloi), a degraded class of men who became very plentiful in 
the later times. They would make their way into houses 
where feasting was going on, like Philippus in Xenophon's 
Symposium, partly in order that they might keep up the merri- 
ment of the party, and partly because they would not easily 
accept a rebuff. Their gluttony and wine-bibbing tended as 
much to corrupt the abstemious habits of the guests 2 as their 
low jests and obscenity did to lower their character. The 
classical writers of late times are full of abuse of these crea- 
tures, who sometimes became literally the lick-spittles of their 
patrons ; but strangely enough the latter, who were really most 
to blame for encouraging such proceedings, seem to have 
escaped censure. 

1 Thus Alcibiades and his ku>/jlos break into the symposium described 
by Plato, p. 212. 

2 A good specimen of the parasite is Artotrogus in Plautus' Miles 




After speaking of the city life of the Greeks, we are naturally 
led on to the question how far their experience of the world 
extended. Were they confined to the town of their birth, or 
did they visit neighbouring cities, or even travel in foreign 
countries 1 

The answer must depend on the period of Greek history 
which we are considering. We must speak separately of three 
ages, the heroic age, that of Greek independence, beginning 
with the era of the Olympiads, and the Macedonian period. 

In the Homeric age the wealthy families, who held their 
seats on the Acropolis-hills of Greece, and thence ruled the 
surrounding plains, were, like all aristocracies, of a social dis- 
position, and glad to welcome visitors who would relieve the 
monotony of life. In the heroic legends of Greece almost 
all the heroes, Theseus, Bellerophon, Perseus, Odysseus, and 
others, are of a wandering disposition, and are received hos- 
pitably everywhere. 

It has been well remarked that the stranger who arrived at 
a town or mansion was, according to Homer, either a ker^s, a 
£eivos, or a tttw^os. In either case he was, as Nausicaa says, 
under the special protection of Zeus gcvios, 1 who would avenge 
any wrong or injury done to him. The LKer-qs was one driven 
from house and home who came to seek shelter with a stranger, 
or one who had unintentionally committed homicide and needed 
expiation. Unbidden, he would make his way into the house, 
and take his seat at the altar of Zeus 'EpKaos in the hall of 
the mansion ; or he would approach the house bearing in his 
hand the emblems of a god. Thus Chryses holds in his hands, 
as he approaches the Greek camp, 2 the fillets of far-darting 
Apollo. If the stranger was not in dire distress, but merely 
voyaging for purposes of his own, he was received as a £eivos 
with the most splendid hospitality. He was washed by the 
ladies of the house, and invited to a banquet in the hall of 
the ava£, and only when he had well eaten and drunk was he 
asked his name and his business. The host bestowed on the 
guest the best of all he had, and when he left, loaded him with 

1 Od. vi. 207. 2 II. i. 14. 


rich presents. In return, the guest bore an endless gratitude to 
the boat, and even if they met in the battle-field would not 

injure him. Odysseus declines to contend even in sport with 
the son of his host Alcinoiis. The beggar (wto»x^s) wno ^da 
wandering life was free to eat the broken meats in the hall of 
any noble, and to sleep in the aWova-a ; but he was of course 
not treated as an equal. 

Tlmse who did not belong either to the great families or to 
the class of vagrants probably voyaged hut little. Commerce 
was scarcely born : such import trade as existed was in Phoeni- 
cian hands, and slaves were the chief article of export. But 
the skilled workman ((fy/zioe/ryo's), was accustomed to go from 
court to court to work for hire, and to leave behind him 
worthy memorials of his skill. 

A ureal change took place at the time of the spreading of 
Greek colonies over the West and East. Greek settlers were 
planted on all the shores of the Mediterranean, and naturally 
their kinsmen who remained at home exchanged with them 
frequent visits. And it was by no accident that precisely at 
this time the great national festivals of the Greeks, Olympia, 
Neitiea, l'ythia, and Isthmia, acquired importance, and attracted 
at stated intervals to the mother-country crowds of such as 
'Mild claim Hellenic birth. The great annual festivals also 
of the Greek mother-cities were attended by many from their 
colonies. Thus, for men at least, sea-voyages of great length 
must have been of considerable frequency. One is astonished 
to find the lowness of fares (vat>A.a) charged by shippers for 
the conveyance of passengers. From Athens to ^Egina a man 
could sail in the fourth century B.C. for two obols, and even 
in the time of Lucian for four. In the time of Plato 1 a man 
with family and baggage could voyage from the Piraeus to Egypt 
or to Pontus for two drachms, providing, of course, his own 

Inland travelling was never so easy or so usual as going by 
water. The calm and protected seas and sounds of Greece 
naturally tempt the traveller, and in old days the fear of 
pirates was almost the only drawback to sea-journeys. But the 
Greek inlands are rugged and difficult at all times, and except 
in times of profound peace, or on the occasion of a national 
festival, when enmities were suspended, it must have been im- 
possible to go far by land without running the risk of hostile 
encounters. Every ten miles one passed into the lands of a 

1 Plato, Qorgias, 511 d. 


new city, and every city had its own politics and its own 

The main purpose of the roads was to facilitate approach to 
the great temples and the scenes of the Greek festivals. The 
sacred way from Athens to Eleusis, and from Olympia to the 
sea-coast, are instances. Nevertheless, the Greeks were never 
road-builders, as the Eomans were. They did not build lofty 
causeways through valleys. They contented themselves with 
smoothing away the chief obstructions in their rocky paths, 
and in many cases with making certain level artificial ruts two 
or three inches deep, adapted to receive the wheels of carriages. 
Considerable remains of these ruts still exist ; l in some roads 
there seem to have been an up and a down line, in other cases 
only a single line, and when the latter is the case, there are 
still traceable at intervals grooves cut to enable a chariot or 
waggon to leave the road and allow another to pass. Curiously 
the part of the road lying between these grooves or ruts re- 
mains very rough and rocky. Professor Curtius 2 suggests that 
it must have been strewn with a layer of sand or other soil. 

These remains explain how it was possible in Greece to travel 
in a carriage (a/xa£a), as women and children usually did. But 
men, unless given to luxury, went far more expeditiously on 
horseback or on foot. The horse was of course the usual means 
of progression with the wealthy, but on the rocky paths over 
the hills he could go only at a walking-pace. A pedestrian, if 
hardy arid active, could easily distance him ; so when news 
was brought rapidly from one part of Greece to another, we in- 
variably find that the conveyer was a runner on foot. The 
horses did not, it appears, wear shoes ; but vTroSrjfiaTa, socks or 
sandals, were commonly tied on the feet of beasts of burden. 
The ancient, like the modern traveller in Greece, if he went on 
horseback, formed part of a cavalcade, which must frequently 
ride single-file. First the masters rode, and then came the 
slaves, usually on foot, driving other horses which carried the 
baggage. 3 This baggage had to include sleeping - apparatus 
(a-TpiofxaTa), as well as clothes, and frequently provisions. If the 
amount of it were small, 4 it might be carried by the horse of the 
traveller or by his slave. Sick men and women travelled in 
litters (cfiopela) in which they reclined at full length, four bearers 
supporting the four corners. These were not, indeed, so usual 

7 Curtius, Wegebau bet den Griechen, Berl. Acad. 1 854. 
2 Loc. cit. 3 Aristoph. Birds, 615. 

4 Lucian, Asin. 1. 'i-mros d£ fx.e Karijye iced ra <tk€vt], kclI depairu. J)ko\o6- 
Oei eh. 


in the early days of Greece, but in Macedonian times splendid 
litters became a regular part of the equipment of wealthy ladies 
and 'Etcu/mu. 

The public ways, like everything else in Greece, were under 
the protection of special deities, Apollo, Hermes, and Hecate. 
By the side of the road occasional chapels were erected, and in 
them the wayfarer might often find food gratis. Inns (iravSoKela 
or Ka-injXda), tlemgh in later Greece they existed everywhere, 
were never in high repute. The traveller was unfortunate who 
was obliged to betake himself to them rather than to the 
house of a friend or acquaintance. The proprietors were de- 
spised by the public for taking money in return for that hos- 
pitality which the Greek considered it his first duty to show. 
In Borne places public buildings like caravanserais took the place 
of inns, and offered to all at least gratuitous shelter. The long 
stote at places like Olympia would accommodate a large number 
of travellers, who would of course bring beds and provisions 
with them. 

We do not know much about the custom-house arrangements 
of the various cities. Taxes on taxable goods would, however, 
be levied in port or at the gate of a city, not the frontier of its 
territory. When we read, as we constantly do in inscriptions, 
>^\' the decree of a city confering ureAeia on a stranger, it was 
probably intended to save him from the inconveniences of search 
and the payment of duty on his entry into the town. If a 
traveller had to pass through the territory of a hostile state, he 
would provide himself with a pass, which was called a-vyypacfir] 

• •r <r(f>payi<s. 

The relation of host and guest, as we have described it in 
Homeric times, persisted throughout Greek history. Wherever 
a Qreek went, he was almost sure of a welcome from a relation, 
a friend, or a friend of a friend. 1 Letters of introduction were 
Frequently given to those who travelled by those who remained 
behind. The simplest form of letter of introduction was the 
impression of the signet of the introducing person. A man's 
signet was known to all his friends, and the mere exhibition 
of it entitled the bearer among so hospitable a people as the 
( rreekfl to lodging and friendship. Any other token or o-v/x/?oAov 
which would be understood answered the same purpose. 

If a traveller had no letters of introduction to any citizen of 
tie' town he visited, lie would probably apply to the official 
rp6£cvos, among whose duties that of lodging any prominent 

1 Lucian, Asin. I. 


citizen of the city he represented was certainly included. As 
a last resource, he would look out an inn. 

After the age of Alexander the limits of Greek travel east- 
ward were vastly extended. The mercenary soldier and the 
merchant would voyage as far as Cabul and the frontiers of 
China, and find Greek cities and kinsfolk all the way. Troops 
of actors and caravans laden with goods crossed and recrossed 
Asia. India, the Caspian, Abyssinia became familiar to Greek 
travellers ; and from the custom of travelling abroad the Greeks 
acquired that of travelling more at home. More commodious 
inns were erected in Attica, Boeotia, and other districts, and 
citizens passing from place to place soon enlarged their horizon, 
and lost that local colour which had hitherto marked them. 
They became citizens of the world instead of Thebans, Plataeans, 
or Athenians. 



It has been frequently observed that in nothing is the contrast 
between the heroic and the historical ages of Greece more 
striking than in the position and treatment of women, which 
appear to have been better in the times of Homer than in 
those of Thucydides. In the period after Alexander, women 
seem again to have become more prominent and important ; 
so we arrive at the curious result that women were of least 
account in the greatest ages of Greece, in those days when the 
public life was most vigorous and Greece outwardly most 
nourishing. And the reason, or at least one chief reason, is 
not far to seek, namely, that in the archaic times of Greece and 
the times of decay, the men cultivated and found their pleasure 
in private and domestic life ; in the great age of Greece the 
life of politics had driven quite into the background that of 
the home. The seclusion of women, like slavery, was part of 
the price paid by Greece, and especially by Athens, for a 
magnificent burst of public splendour. 

It is by some of the German authorities mentioned in this 
connection, as a reason for the greater honour of early days, 
that in Homeric times a husband paid a large sum (e'Si/a) for his 
wife ; at a later period he received a dowry (-7rpot£) with her. 
But it is hard to think that a purchased wife, even if valued 
for what she had cost, would be held in great honour. Men 


an- only willing to pay for what becomes their property. The 
purchasing of wives is, in fact, an example of the survival of 
a very archaic custom, and the high position of women in 
Homeric Greece was maintained rather in spite of than in 
consequence of it. 

Very dignified was the position, according to the Iliad and 
Odyssey > of the wives of the heroes who fought at Troy. Each 
was mistress in her own house, the companion of her husband, 
the welcome! of his guests, and an object of veneration to the 
subject people. In the regions beyond the {ikyapov or men's 
hall she was supreme, ruling over an army of maid-servants, 
and appointing them their tasks of spinning, weaving, and 
household work, and superintending the bringing up of chil- 
dren. In the absence of her lord she seems to have managed 
all his affairs, and given orders to men as well as women. 
Even when he was present, the sphere of her activity was by 
no means bounded by the limits of the thalamus. When no 
guests were present, it appears that the master of the house 
dined in the hall l with his wife and children. In the far 
more usual case of guests being present, the mistress of the 
house graced the meal with her presence, though she does not 
seem to have partaken of the food. At a feast in the palace of 
Alcinoiis, a high seat 2 is reserved for Arete, his wife, who 
listens, and not in silence, to the story of Odysseus. Penelope, 
accompanied by two maids, makes her appearance in the hall 
where her suitors are feasting, 3 and stands, only partly veiled, 
at the door leading from the men's hall to the women's. When 
only a smaller company of the friends of Telemachus is present, 4 
she comes and sits opposite to her son as he dines. In the 
palace of Menelaiis, Helen sits at the feast given to Tele- 
machus, and n<»t only mixes a bowl of wine for her guests, 5 
but also tells them a story while they drink it. Nor were these 
ladies by any means confined to the house. 6 Arete is not only 
honoured by her husband and children, but by the people who 
look on her and address her as a deity when she appears in 
the streets; and she heals the strifes of men who quarrel. 

Xo one can read the account of Nausicaa's reception of 

Odysseus without feeling that dignity and self-possession such 

she displays could not exist in a maiden brought up in 

seclusion and trained only in the labours of the loom. A 

1 Od, viii. 242. ore Kev aots iv ueyapoicnv daivvr) irapa ay r'aXoxu nal 
colai Teneocnv. - o,f. xi. 33c 

3 Od. xviii. 206. « <) ( f. xvii. 96. 

" Od, iv. 233. ■ Qd. vii. 70. 


similar nobleness and majesty is found in the portraits of the 
women of the heroic age like Antigone and Alcestis, as pre- 
served in legend and presented to us by the Greek tragedians. 
The comedians, on the other hand, who paint contemporary 
women, draw a very different picture, and seem to labour for 
words to express their contempt of womankind. 

There was indeed one custom among high-born women of 
the heroic age which has caused great scandal among the 
commentators. They were in the habit of washing in a bath, 
anointing, and clothing friends and strangers who visited them. 
Thus at Pylos, Polycasta, 1 youngest daughter of Nestor, bathes 
and dresses young Telemachus ; Helen bathes Odysseus when 
he comes as a spy to Troy, 2 and recognises him in the bath by 
personal marks, as does old nurse Euryclea at a later period. 
Odysseus, in extreme modesty, declines to be bathed by the 
maidens of Nausicaa, but his scruples were clearly unusual. 
Commentators have tried in a score of ways to avoid the clear 
force of these statements. They have supposed that the 
Homeric heroes wore bathing-dresses, or sat up to their necks 
in water during the operation. These interpretations must be 
rejected. Perhaps the bather retained enough clothes to satisfy 
the demands of actual decency, but it is clear that the Greeks 
did not regard as we do the display of the naked body : indeed, 
they would have had difficulty in understanding modern deli- 
cacy in such a matter. 

Homer gives us little material for constructing the life of 
women of the lower classes, except the slaves. Hesiod speaks 
of women of the poorer sort in language not complimentary, 
and more in the manner of later times. It is evident that the 
position of the wives of poor workmen and labourers can vary 
but little from age to age, being determined not by custom, but 
by pressing necessities of various kinds. 

In the historical times of Greece the women of Athens were 
the most secluded, those of Sparta the freest, the other cities 
of Greece proper apparently occupying an intermediate position. 
We will begin with Athens. Here the unmarried girls of a 
house were scarcely allowed to leave the gynaeconitis on any 
other occasion than that of a religious festival. If a wedding 
or funeral were passing, they might be allowed to go as far as 
the front door of the house, and, in the absence of strangers, 
might sometimes enter the court of the men ; but such an event 
would be unusual. For days and weeks together the girls would 

1 Od. iii. 464. • Od. if. 252. 


be confined to their court, where their chief employment Mas 
spinning and weaving. Education, in our sense of the word, 
they had none, beyond, such a smattering of letters as their 
mother could impart. The best-bred girl was she who had 
heard and seen the least, 1 and had learned but one lesson, that 
of modesty, a-ui^povdv. The doors of the gynceconitis were 
rigidly 1 tarred against all men except the master of the house 
and a few near relatives. The only breaks in this somewhat 
monotonous existence were afforded by the great religious 
festivals, when some high-born girls walked in procession, 
and even performed dances, the training for which must have 
sometimes agreeably interrupted the monotony of their exist- 
ence ; and the rest were allowed to look on. On such oceasions 
only was there a chance that any falling in love on the part 
of young men or women should take place ; but such indiscre- 
tions were rare at Athens where free women were concerned, 
and marriages matters of convenience merely. 

Marriages in Greece were entered into from motives of pru- 
dence rather than of sentiment. Becker remarks that four 
motives might incline a man for marriage. The first is respect 
for the gods, and a desire to leave behind him sons to continue 
his religious duties. The second is a consideration for the 
welfare of the state. The third is a desire to perpetuate his 
rare and lineage. The fourth is the need of a trusty and skilful 
housekeeper. It will be observed that, except the last of these 
motives, all have reference not to the wife herself, but to the 
children she is expected to bear. In fact, the desire to have a 
son who may represent his father before gods and men, and in 
particular keep up the sacrifices to ancestors, was one of the 
deepest-seated feelings in all branches of the Aryan race, and 
more prominent in India than in Greece. 2 

Notwithstanding, the young men of the later times of 
Greece, accustomed to pleasure and a life of freedom, generally 
looked on marriage with dislike, and only submitted to it out 
of deference to their elders. In the plays of Plautus, which 
reflect the age of Menander, marriage is commonly inflicted by 
choleric fathers on gay sons to whose misdeeds they wish to 
put an end, though instances do occur in which the son is a 
consenting party. The selection of the bride was a matter in 
which only in rarest cases the bridegroom had a voice. This 
matter was arranged by the parents on both sides, assisted 
sometimes by a go-between or matchmaker (7rpo/xv'?)a-Tpta), an old 

1 X'ii. (Scon. vii. 4. - See Coulanges, La Cite Antique. 


woman of a not over-respected class. The choice was dictated 
by motives different from those favoured in modern novels. 
The first requisite was that the bride should be the lawful 
daughter of a citizen of a respectable family. The second, 
that between bride and bridegroom there should not be great 
disparity in social position. A wealthy man might often gratify 
his friendship by marrying the daughter of a poor friend, but 
the poor man who married an heiress put himself in a very 
unpleasant, and even ridiculous position. It would seem that 
of the personal qualities of the lady, so long as she possessed 
(ra)(f>po(Tvvr), less account was made. The bridegroom had little 
or no opportunity of making acquaintance with her until the 
marriage- day. 

The usual time for marriages in Greece was the winter, one 
month of which, Gamelion, received its name from the circum- 
stance. In winter the health was supposed to be more vigorous 
and the spirits more elastic. Hesiod recommends the fourth 
day after new moon as the best for bringing a wife home. 
Other writers mention the full moon as the best time. 

As is usually the case in countries where marriages are affaires 
de convenance, it was usual for the bridegroom to be much 
older than the bride. In this matter the philosophers probably 
adopted the ordinary opinion. Plato in the Laws l suggests that 
for a woman the marriageable age is eighteen to twenty years, 
for a man thirty to thirty-five. Aristotle 2 mentions the age of 
eighteen for women and that of about thirty-seven for men. 
In any case, care was usually taken in Greece that the husband 
should be a good deal older than the wife ; a precaution doubly 
necessary considering the amount of authority which the man 
possessed, and the early bloom and rapid decay of female beauty 
and vigour in the South of Europe. 

At Athens the state required as a preliminary to marriage an 
eyyvrjcris or betrothal, in which act the nearest male relative 
disposed of the bride. In the absence of this ceremony, or in 
case of the responsibility being assumed by a wrong person, the 
marriage was void and the children born of it illegitimate. 3 It 
was also matter of universal custom, though not actually re- 
quired by law, that a dowry, Trpol^ or </>epv?7, should be fixed for 
the wife. We have an instance in Demosthenes 4 in which a 
dowerless wife is acknowledged to be legally married : but as 
a Greek had very little difficulty in getting rid of a wife on 

1 vi. p. 785. " Polit. vii. 16. 

3 Demosthenes, p. 1 134. 4 P. 1016. 


condition of returning her dowry, it is clear that in cases where 
there was none the wife was entirely at the husband's mercy, 
and practically almost in the position of a mistress, being liable 
to be turned out of the house on any quarrel. 

The state being Batisfied, the next duty was to conciliate the 
deities of the city and commend the marriage to their favour. 
It does not appear that the requisite religious ceremonies, 
7r/3oya/xaa, took place on a fixed day, nor do they seem to have 
been made in common by the two families. They were mostly 
performed by the future bride and her parents on her behalf. 
They may be divided into two groups or sets. The first group 
of observances consisted in prayers and sacrifices to those deities 
of the national Pantheon who most nearly controlled the affairs 
of marriage, 1 Zeus Teleios, Hera Teleia, Aphrodite, Peitho, and 
Artemis, the last as presiding over the birth of children. But 
in almost all Greek cities there w r as a second set of ceremonies 
of a more primitive and local character. We are specially told 
of the part due in marriage to the 6eoi kyywpioi. To a local 
nymph or a local river the girl about to be married sacrificed 
her hair, which was an archaic form of representing self-dedica- 
tion. In the Troad girls bathed in the Scamander before 
marriage, with the phrase, Aa/3e [xov 2/<a/zavSp€ ryv irapOeviav. 
Iphinoe at Megara, Opis at Delos, and other deities of a purely 
local type, participated in these honours. 

Sometimes, in place of sacrifices to rivers and springs, there 
was substituted a bath (Xovrpbv vvpcfaKov) in water specially 
fetched from them for the purpose. At Athens both bride- 
groom and bride washed on the wedding-day in water fetched 
from the fountain Callirrhoe by a girl appointed for the pur- 
pose, ami nearly connected with one of them by blood, who was 
termed /} XovTpo<fi6pos. The wedding-feast (Qoivi) ya/xi/oy) took 
place at the house of the bride's father, and was preceded by 
sacrifices, which were probably mainly offered to the household 
deities. The notion that the feast, or a second feast, was held 
in the house of the bridegroom is now recognised as erroneous. 
It arose from a misunderstanding of the custom, according to 
which the father of the bridegroom or the bridegroom himself 
gave, on the occasion of the wedding, a feast to his friends or 
</>/>aTo/)es. This feast was called yap}A.ta. At the wedding- 
breakfast, our wedding-cake was represented by a sesame- 
cake (7T€/x/xa), which the bridal pair had to eat together, sesame 
being a symbol of fertility. Women w r ere present at the 

1 Pint. Qu. Horn. c. 2. 



banquet in no small numbers, occupying separate tables, and 
having the bride in their midst. 1 This banquet gave the 
necessary publicity to the wedding. After it, a procession was 
formed to conduct the bride to her new abode. A chariot was 
brought, and in it was placed the bride, veiled, bearing in her 
hands, at least in Athens, a vessel for roasting barley, in sign 
that her future life was not to be idle. On one side of her sat 
the bridegroom, on the other the ira paw /x<£os, his friend, who 
held the reins. Behind followed her mother, bearing two 
torches lit at the paternal hearth, together with a crowd of 

Fig. 25.— Setting out of Bride. 2 (From a Vase, Wiener 
VorlcgebL, 1888, pi. 8.) 

male and female companions, with flute-playing and songs 
and jests. At the door of her new abode she was received 
by the mother of the bridegroom, who also seems to have 
borne torches, and conducted by her into the house. To this 
day torches form an important part of a Greek bridal proces- 
sion. In some places the axle of the chariot used for this 
purpose was taken out and burnt, to signify that for the young 

1 Lucian, Conviv. 8. 

2 The groom's friend in the chariot seems to await the pair : the mother 
has taken her place : Hermes or a herald leads the chariot : a female 
musician accompanies it. 


wife there was no return. If the bridegroom had been married 
before, he had to intrust the conduct of the bride entirely to 
the irapdwjMf>os. That the bridal pair and the members of the 
festal procession wore bright clothing stands to reason, but as 
to colours there does not seem to have been any fixed rule. 

As the bride entered her new abode, she was saluted by a 
shower of fruits and sweetmeats (Kara^va-fxara), an ancient 
custom, surviving even to modern days. As she entered the 
bridal chamber she partook of a quince, in accordance with a 
Solonic law, the object of which is said to have been to give 

Fig. 26.— Arrival of Bride. (From the same Vase. 1 ) 

sweetness to her breath. Her companions, standing at the door, 
sang a hymeneal song, and returned next morning early to wake 
the sleeping pair. 2 These two songs were called respectively 
€7ri0a\d[uov and SieyepTiKa. Next day the bridegroom went to 
the abode of hifl parents-in-law and stayed for a while, until the 
bride sent a garment as a present to persuade him to return. 
This was termed dVavAia, but there is much doubt whether 
the custom was general. 3 After that came the dvaKaXvTTTijpia, 

1 The picture is flanked by the two mothers : the bridal pair are led by 
Apollo as musician to their new abode. 

■ Theocr. Id. xviii. 54. 3 Pollux, iii. 39. 


when the bride appeared in her new home, unveiled, to receive 
the congratulations of near relations and intimate friends, as 
well as presents bestowed by them. 

Such seem to have been the marriage ceremonies at Athens and 
in most parts of Greece, though it is likely that the grammarians, 
who are our chief authorities for them, may have put together 
usages prevailing in various parts of the Greek world. In 
modern Greece one of the most important ceremonies connected 
with marriage consists in a solemn conducting of the bride to the 
w T ell whence she will in future have to draw water, 1 and in drink- 
ing from that well on her part. This takes place a day or two 
after the wedding, and considering how much was thought in 
antiquity of wells and springs, it can scarcely be doubted that 
the custom survives from remote antiquity. At Sparta a dif- 
ferent set of usages prevailed, which were in fact survivals 
of the very primitive custom of marriage by capture. After 
obtaining the parents' consent, the bridegroom carried off his 
wife with an appearance of violence ; but for a long time his 
visits to her were secret, and he lived publicly with his un- 
married comrades as before. 

When a woman married, the limits of her prison were 
widened. The street-door took the place of the door of the 
gynseconitis as the usual limit of her wanderings, 2 though at the 
same time she would doubtless retire into her apartments when 
strangers appeared. But her life, if secluded, became no longer 
idle. First she had to superintend the household and assign 
the tasks of the maid-servants, to despatch them on errands and 
to overlook their spinning in the great work-rooms at the back 
of the house. Next she kept the keys, and took charge of 
linen, plate, and all other valuables deposited in the house. In 
this the ra/xia might assist her. The third duty of a woman 
was the nurture and rearing of her children, real or adopted, 
which was in her hands, in the case of boys, until they left the 
nursery ; in the case of girls, until they were married. It was 
clearly not thought an improper though a rare thing for a 
married woman to go abroad, if accompanied by slaves, whether 
for the purpose of visiting friends, of being present at the 
acting of a tragedy (women w r ere excluded from comedies), or 
to visit temples. But underhand or suspicious absences from 

1 Wachsmuth, Das Alte Griechenland im Neuen, p. ioo. 

2 Menand. Fragm. irtpas yap a6\ios dupa eXevdepa yvvawi vevbfiiaT 


home gave opportunity for a divorce. 1 How little and seldom 
they went out is clear from the account which we have that 
after the battle of Chseroneia the women stood trembling in 
the door- ways, asking passers-by as to the fate of their 
husbands and fathers and sons. Even at such a crisis they did 
not venture out into the street ; yet the orator Lycurgus 2 calls 
their conduct unworthy of the city and themselves. It would 
appeal that the Homeric custom of wives being present at the 
meals of their husbands survived, though the wife merely sat 
by while the husband reclined; but this did not happen when 
guests were present. Only Heta3ra3 were present at banquets. 

In case of illness, it has been the privilege of women in all 
ages to interfere and break the bonds of custom. The mistress 
of a Greek household was also head-nurse, and considering the 
number of slaves and dependants, some of whom would fre- 
quently be ill, this function must have largely extended her 

Of course there were relaxations which varied the monotony 
of the life of girls and women. With the former games of ball 
were a very frequent amusement. The swing (ala>pa) which is 
also represented on several Greek vases, was not unknown to 
them. They had dolls in abundance and a host of pet animals, 
more particularly birds and dogs. The long stories of the nurse 
helped many an hour to pass, and the employments of the 
toilet still more. It was also a favourite amusement with girls 
to pluck the leaves of the -njAe^iAov, or throw apple-pips at 
the ceiling, and thence draw an augury for the success or dis- 
appointment of the passion which they might choose to entertain 
or fancy for some youth whom they can scarcely have seen 
except at a distance. 

The question has been raised whether the wives of citizens 
had public baths of their own which they frequented. This 
must certainly be answered in the negative as far as Athens is 
concerned. But groups of women bathing in places resembling 
the public baths of men are frequently represented on vases of 
both early and late date. The custom may have obtained in 
some cities, especially those of Dorian origin. The HetEerae, 
also, even at Athens, frequented public baths, as is shown by 
the statement that Phryne never went there. 

1 Plant. Merc. iv. 6, 2. 

" Uxor viro clam dome- egressa est foras, 
Viro fit causa, exigitur matrimonio." 

2 In Leocr. p. 165. 


In such employments as these women were supposed to find 
sufficient employment for their minds, and enough bodily 
exercise to keep them in health. Ischomachus, the model 
husband of Xenophon's Economics, 1 does light upon the notion 
that some stronger exercise for the muscles may be desirable, 
and recommends to his young wife that she should not lead 
the sedentary life of slave-girls, but employ herself with 
walking about the house after the servants, with moistening 
and kneading flour for bread, and in unfolding and refolding 
the household linen. These active duties will, he thinks, be 
sufficient to keep the colour of health in her cheeks and enable 
her to dispense with the artificial embellishments of paint and 

The treatise of Xenophon just cited gives us a pleasing and 
a complete account of the recognised duties of wives at Athens. 
In a dialogue between himself and Socrates, Ischomachus re- 
lates with great self-satisfaction how he has trained his wife, 
until she has become a model of household management. She 
was married at fourteen, and brought to her new position only 
knowledge of the labours of the loom, together with temperate- 
ness in eating, modesty, and a teachable disposition. By a 
series of object lessons in the house, Ischomachus teaches her 
the need of diligence, of method, and of order. He points out 
to her that the gods have obviously destined man for life out- 
side the house, that he may provide what is necessary for 
livelihood, and woman to dwell in the house, and to take 
charge of all that he provides. He compares, with more ethical 
than entomological exactness, the position of the wife in a 
house to that of a queen-bee in the hive ; and represents the 
latter as going round the hive, keeping the working bees to 
their tasks, superintending the rearing of the young and tending 
the sick ; winning so completely the confidence of the whole 
community, that when she issues forth all the hive follows 
her without hesitation. 

As Aristophanes holds up to contempt in the Clouds the 
changes coming over Greek education, and the substitution of 
intellectual for ethical training, so in the Ecclesiazusce he 
pours ridicule upon the movement, which appears to have 
taken place at the same time, in favour of greater freedom 
and more influence for women. He represents the women of 
Athens as meeting in solemn assembly to claim the govern- 
ment of the state, and to introduce all sorts of new and flighty 

1 C. 10. 



ideas of communism and socialism. Whether there was any 
reality in the movement can scarcely be made out from the 
treatment of Aristophanes, which soon degenerates into jesting 
of a very broad kind. But in any case it may safely be said 
that at Athens the advocates of women's rights were never 
of much account in politics or in social life. 

Fig. 27.— "Women at Music. 1 (Gerhard, Auserl. Vasenb. pi. 304.) 

Such was the example set at Athens by the women of the 
more respectable classes, which was followed but very im- 
perfectly by those of lower station. These being compelled 
to do much work which in wealthy households fell on the 
slaves, such as cooking and the fetching of water, could not 

1 These are doubtless flute-girls being trained ; a lyre hangs on the 


be so scrupulous. This Aristotle expressly states. Referring 
to the gynseconomi, a class of officers who at Syracuse regu- 
lated the going out of women, he avers that such an institution 
is aristocratic, not democratic, "for how," says he, "can you 
keep in the wives of the poor?" "The poor are obliged to 
send wife and children on errands, because they have no 
slaves." 1 The class of 'Ercu/xxi also had more liberty ; but 
at Athens liberty for women was quite incompatible with 
delicacy and refinement. 

Plutarch says that Solon made a series of sumptuary laws 
respecting women, forbidding them, among other things, to 
travel at night except in a carriage, with a torch before them, 
also to tear themselves at funerals ; and he adds that in his 
own day such offences were punished at Athens by the 
ywcuKovo/zoi, who seem therefore to have been introduced into 
Athens at a later time. At Syracuse these officers had very 
great authority, so that it is even said that a woman could 
not go out by day without their permission, 2 which sounds in- 
credible, especially if we consider that the seclusion of women 
was an Ionian rather than a Dorian institution. 

At Sparta an entirely different set of manners prevailed. 
Elsewhere women were brought up with reference to the 
individual and the household. They were considered as 
essentially non-political, whence their neglect. At Sparta, on 
the other hand, they were brought up for nothing but the 
good of the State. There a woman had but two duties, to 
bring forth strong and healthy children, and to sustain and 
incite the valour of the men. From early youth her frame 
was strengthened with athletic exercises, more especially 
running and wrestling, which were practised at the female 
gymnasia. The Latin writers 3 speak of Spartan virgins as 
exercising naked in the presence of men ; but one would sup- 
pose that they were misled. At the public dances, races, and 
wrestling matches they probably wore the short Doric chiton, 
which reached but little below the hips. Yet it must be 
confessed that there are in the Greek writers passages which 
seem to imply complete nudity on these occasions. Athenseus 
speaks of to yvfivovv rots irapBtvovs tois £evois, 4 and Plutarch in 
the Life of Lycurgus is very explicit. The subject is a difficult 
one, and we are inclined to fall back on the fact that a chiton 

1 Aristotle, Politics, iv. 15, vi. 8. 2 Athenseus, p. 521. 

3 Prop. iii. 12. " Inter luctantes nuda puella viros." 

4 Athenseus, xiii. p. 566. 


is worn in the case of the statue of the Vatican representing 
a girl who lias won in the Bersea. So is clad the Dorian 
huntress Artemis, so the Dorian canephori; nor does earlier 
(J reck sculpture often represent a woman as naked except when 
bathing. The result of this athletic training was that the 
Laconian women were universally acknowledged to be the most 
beautiful and healthy in Greece, and were eagerly sought by 
the wealthy as nurses for children. The chief object in allow- 
ing the virgins to be present, as was the custom at Sparta, at 
the exercises of the men, was that the latter might be encouraged 
to strong exertion by the praise of such spectators. Married 
women, mi the other hand, were not allowed to be present. 

It cannot be denied that, at all events in later times, in 
Sparta the women were more respected than elsewhere. They 
were termed Scowo&vat, and even sometimes interfered with 
great effect in politics. No other state in Greece produced 
women of so heroic mould as Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, and 
Au'iatis, the wife of A.gis and Cleomenes. The great reforms 
of Agis were mainly brought about by female influence. "The 
Lacedemonians," says Plutarch, 1 "always hearken to their wives, 
and the women are permitted to intermeddle more with public 
business than the men are with the domestic." In later times a 
large proportion of the Lacedemonian soil was in female hands. 

Very different was the estimation in which the secluded 
women of the Athenians were held. The comedians thought 
no abuse of the sex too bitter or too coarse, and even in the 
tragedies, at which women were present, they were treated to 
such phrases as "one man is better than ten thousand women." 2 
Aristotle speaks of the female sex as by nature worse than the 
male, :; and Plato speaks of virtue as far harder for women to 
attain. In many cases, 00 doubt, the virtues of a woman 
might endear her to her husband or father, and he might 
forget this natural inferiority. < )r, again, if a poor man married 
a lady of fortune, or a low-born man a lady of high family, as 
m the Clouds of Aristophanes, the wife might attain a some- 
what preponderant position within the house; outside it she 
'"iild never be anything but a cypher. The Athenian married, 
i>< »t for affection nor to gain a companion, but to secure a 
trustworthy guardian of his house and goods, and that he 
might have legitimate children to carry on the family. 

1 Lifeo/Agit, - fphig. in Aid. v. 1373. 

Ari>t. J'ulitics, p. 1254. to Sip'pev trpos to OtjXv <pvoei to fj.iu KpeiTTov 
to 8t x^P 0V - 



Some writers have spoken of the Hetserae as if they with 
accomplishments and education occupied the place held in 
modern times by the leaders of feminine society. This is 
quite misleading. Making exception of one or two remarkable 
women, such as the Aspasia of Pericles, the accomplishments 
of the Hetserse very seldom went beyond flute-playing, and 
witty but coarse repartee, while their houses were constant 
scenes of debauchery. They themselves were always treated 
with the utmost contumely when they appeared abroad, being 
made the butt of coarse jests, and their life ended in squalor and 
utter misery. They were sometimes, but not always, slaves. 

In return for their secluded life, the Greek free women were 
at all events treated with some delicacy. A husband would 
carefully abstain from doing anything before the wife which 
would lower his dignity in her eyes ; and Demosthenes 1 makes 
much of the fact that his opponent had on one occasion used 
bad language within the hearing of unmarried women. To force 
one's way into the gynaecoiiitis uninvited was a still more 
grievous offence, and perhaps the worst violation of public 
decency which could be committed. 2 The seclusion of women 
did not put a stop to adultery ; and we are not surprised if, by 
bribes or flatteries, corrupters found their way into the closely 
guarded gynseconitis. In such a case, the offending women 
were most harshly judged, and an adulterer, if detected in the 
act, was liable to be put to death by the injured husband. 

It has already been stated that after the time of Alexander 
the Great the position of women improved in Greece. For this 
several reasons may be found. Domestic life occupied more of 
the attention and affection of men who had lost with autonomy 
their interest in politics. There were, again, at the courts of 
Pergamon, Antioch, and Alexandria queens and women of high 
standing, who did much to raise the estimation in which their 
sex was held. And it must be added that growing corruption 
of morals usually makes women, even if less trusted, yet of more 
account. Of the position of women at Alexandria we have 
a vivid picture in the celebrated fifteenth Idyll of Theocritus. 
Ladies at that city seem to have been allowed to go to the 
spectacle of the commemoration of Adonis attended only by 
maid-servants ; they spoke freely to passers, and even accepted 
the friendly aid of a stranger in the crowd. These, however, 
are Dorian women, and it is doubtful if such liberty was ever 
enjoyed at Athens. 

1 In Meld. p. 540. Q Lysias adv. Simon, p. 540. 




In earlier days in Greece, organized medicine was almost the 
exclusive possession of the elan of the Asklepiada?, the sup- 
posed descendants of Asklepius. In the Iliad, every warrior 
kimws something of the rough and ready remedies for wounds 
which a people given to fighting must meet in the life of every 
day. Sthenelus binds the wound of Diomedes : Pelagon draws 
forth tin' spear from the thigh of Sarpedon : and Patroclus 
cures the arrow-wound of Enrypylus. The method of proceed- 
ing is usually very simple; the offending weapon is cut out, 
and the wound hound up with healing and soothing herhs. 
Cheiron, the trainer of heroes, taught to Achilles the science 
of rming outward hurts, as part of the ordinary education of 
a chief. Yet Podaleirius and Machaon, sons of Asklepius, have, 
in tin 1 Iliad, greater reputation as leeches than any other of 
the Greek heroes, and are sent for, if possible, when a warrior 
is in need of surgical aid. 1 As to diseases which need the care 
of physicians rather than surgeons, they are seldom mentioned 
in the Epic poems, nor do we hear of attempts at their syste- 
matic cure. 

In the historic ages of Greece, also, skill in healing arts 
• '•ntres in the clan of the Asklepiadae and the temples of 
Asklepius. The hereditary priests of Asklepius ministered to 
and prescribed for tin; sick in the temple, and as baths, fresh 
air, and easy exercise were parts of their regime, they may have 
sometimes been of use without the particular interference of 

Bui the priests of the healing god were yet not quite 
without rivals. A- early as the Persian wars we find in 
Greece a custom arising for each city to have and pay a State- 
physician. Thus we find that in the sixth century b.c. Demo- 
cedes "f Croton, after practising on his own account for a year 
at .Kgina, was appointed State-physician at a salary of a talent 
i year. 1 The Athenians next secured his services for a talent 
and two-thirds, and lastly the wealthy Polycrates of Samos 
attracted him from Athens by the oiler of two talents. In the 
casr of these state-doctors, the patients who applied to them 

//. iv. 200. » Ilerodot. 

111. 131. 


had perhaps no fees to pay ; but of course in the case of other 
physicians a fee was required. The amount of it was some- 
times fixed beforehand by the doctors, who refused to under- 
take the case until it was agreed to ; sometimes it was left to 
the gratitude of the patient. Enormous sums were paid in 
the latter case by the wealthy. The State does not appear to 
have maintained any test or scrutiny of those who wished to 

Distinctions such as exist among us between chemists, sur- 
geons, and physicians were not known to the Greeks. The 
doctor had an larpdov or surgery, full of medicines and instru- 
ments, such as cupping-glasses, and even bathing apparatus. 
His assistants, who were sometimes pupils, or more frequently 
slaves, carried out his directions and dispensed the drugs, or 
even prescribed themselves in the cases of less important and 
less wealthy patients. The knife and the cupping-glass were 
among the most frequent remedies ; but the Greeks believed 
in the medicinal virtues of a large number of herbs ; some of 
which, such as the silphium, have ceased to be used. 

Of course in serious cases the patient could not go to the 
larpdov, and he then received visits from the doctor at his 
own house. Hippocrates lays great stress on the maintenance 
by a doctor of a becoming exterior and a quiet and reserved 
manner ; but it appears that there were some who disturbed 
their patients with noise or offended them by roughness, and 
others who sought to dazzle by the splendour of their appa- 

It is to Hippocrates that the ancients ascribed the formula- 
tion of the oath taken in some cities by those who entered the 
profession of medicine, and though this attribution cannot be 
upheld, yet the oath is certainly early as well as interesting. 
I translate it in full : "I swear by Apollo the Physician, 
Asklepius, Hygieia and Panaceia, and all gods and goddesses, 
calling them all to witness, that I will fulfil according to my 
power and judgment this oath and promise. I will reverence 
my teacher in this art as my own parents, give him of my living 
and fulfil his necessities : I will regard his issue as my own 
brothers, and will teach them this art, if they wish to learn it, 
without pay or obligation : I will admit to teaching, to lecture, 
and all other instruction my own sons and those of my teacher, 
and pupils who are articled and have taken the oath pertaining 
to physicians, and none beside. I will use a regimen suited to 
the good of the sick according to my power and judgment, and 
preserve them from harm and injury : I will give no man 


poison at his request, nor will give such advice : likewise will 
I administer no harmful drug to women. I will preserve my 
life ami practise pure and sound. I will not cut for stone, but 
leave that to those who practise the matter. When I enter 
a house, I will go for the good of the sick, keeping myself from 
all wilful harm and injury, and all lust towards man and 
woman, free and slave. All that I hear and see in my practice 
or out of my practice in ordinary life, if it should not be told 
outside, I will keep in silence, regarding this experience as 
secret. If 1 keep this oath sacred, may I be successful in life 
and practice, and in repute with all men for all time; but if 
1 violate it and commit perjury, may it be otherwise with me." 

Meantime, beside the growing schools of scientific medicine, 
there existed other sorts of treatment. 

In all ages there have been many natures which have 
revolted against the hard materialism which is the dominant 
creed in the high medical schools. In all ages many have pre- 
ferred to look for relief even from physical ailments to some 
kind of miracle; have looked with more favour on faith than 
on mere prescriptions and drugs. And indeed, if there be any 
value in human testimony, faith has often been successful 
where drugs have failed. Among the Greeks, persons whose 
temper was such that they expected health from mere mental 
and spiritual influences would naturally apply to the temples 
of Asklepius, and enrol themselves among the votaries of the 
healing god. In so doing, they certainly fell in the way of 
a good deal of charlatanry, but they may nevertheless in some 
cases have attained their object. The effects of belief, even if 
thai belief be based on insecure grounds, may often be solid 

The position of the temple of Asklepius at Athens was in 
winter pleasant and salubrious. It was placed on the southern 
side of the Acropolis rock, and by that rock was sheltered 
from the cold winds of the north, while exposed to the sun 
and t" the breezes blowing fresh from the ^Egean. It was 
above the level of tin; city, and looked over it to ^Egina, " the 
i'- of the Piraeus," and Salamis and Acrocorinthus. The 
traces of walls which still remain within the precinct of the 
deity may be variously interpreted; but it is clear from an 
inscription ' discovered in ritti that there were two temples 

1 The inscription (C. I. A. ii. I, Addenda 4S0 b ; Girard, p. 6) records 
how one Diodes repaired the propylsea of the precinct, and restored the 
<>ld temple, being allowed as a return to place on each an inscription 
recording his liberality. 


of the god, an older and a newer ; and besides we can trace 
the ground-plan of ranges of buildings of some extent, which 
must have served for the abode, or at least the temporary 
accommodation, of the crowds of votaries who came to the 
spot in search of health. In one chamber is a well, used no 
doubt for the ablutions which the god frequently prescribed, 
and which, together with gentle walks in the airy and warm 
galleries, go far to explain some of the cures which took 

The temples were not more than small chapels, and filled 
with inscriptions and with reliefs set up by those who had 
been cured, and articles of value given by them as a fee to 
the healing god. Some of the reliefs and some of the inscrip- 
tions remain to our days. The reliefs are mostly of one class : 
they represent Asklepius and Hygieia, or sometimes Asklepius 
with other members of his family, standing or seated in dignity, 
and approached by a train of votaries, who bring with them 
sometimes an animal for sacrifice. Some of these reliefs belong 
to a good time of art, and are in composition and execution 
most pleasing. But though these larger anatliemata alone 
survive, the inscriptions tell us of many others which have 
long since been stolen or destroyed. It was a common custom 
to dedicate to Asklepius a model in precious metal, in stone, or 
in wax of that part of the body which had been healed by his 
intervention. Some people have fancied that an accumulation 
of votive offerings of this kind might in time constitute a sort 
of museum of pathology and be very instructive to students. 
But those who entertain such a fancy can understand but little 
of the aesthetic and artistic side of the Greek nature. Such 
models would not represent the diseased member in its ab- 
normal condition, but in that healthy condition to which it 
was restored by the god. It was health and beauty, not disease 
and deformity, which Greek artists depicted. This is no mere 
theoretical assertion ; we possess in our museums a large 
number of stone models of eyes, breasts, arms and feet, and 
other parts of the human body, dedicated in memory of cures 
in ancient times, and many of these belong to a later time, 
when the purity of Greek artistic taste was overlaid by the 
barbarism of Asia and the realism of Home. Yet they repre- 
sent health merely ; or, if there be an allusion to disease, it is 
no brutal transcript but a mere hint. 

We read also, in the inscriptions, of votive cocks made in 
the cheapest of all materials, terra- cotta, and dedicated either 
by those who were very poor, or by such mean worshippers 


as the [UKpofaXoTtfxos of Thcophrastus, who dedicates in the 
temple of Asklepius a bronze ring, and goes every day to clean 
it, and rub it with oil. But many of the thank- offerings pre- 
sented to the temple were of quite another class, cups of silver 
and gold, jewels of value, censers and tripods. 

The inscriptions found at Athens enlighten us as to the 
number and character of these dedications; they go into the 
utmost detail, and even describe the place where each was 
deposited, by such phrases as "in the second row," "behind 
the door," and the like. They also preserve to us decrees 
passed by the people in regard to the temple, and record the 
names of priests; but they do not give us, what is of far 
more interest in the present day, a record of the cures wrought 
in the temple. For that we must turn to the inscriptions dis- 
covered in the great Asklepian shrine at Epidaurus, the native 
city of the god. Of these inscriptions, and the cures recorded 
in them, an account will be found in my New CJiapters in Greek 
History (ch. xii.), from which the preceding paragraphs are 
t nken. 1 The record is far more interesting from the light 
which it throws on ancient beliefs and manners than from any 
in formation which it gives us as to the state of medicine in 
antiquity. For the cures in no case result from any methodical 
treatment of disease, but rather from the direct interposition of 
the god Asklepius, who either in a dream gives directions to 
the patient, or more often with his own hands removes the 
roo1 of the evil. The modus operandi is set forth in still more 
detail in the well-known passage in the Plutns of Aristophanes, 
in which Plutus is represented as being cured of his blindness 
through sleeping in the precinct of Asklepius at Athens, and 
there receiving [he personal ministrations of the divine physi- 
cian. And doubtless, throughout later Greek history, the 
shrines, not only of Asklepius, but of many other divine and 
semi-divine healers, were thronged by a crowd of credulous 

In later Greek times some of the doctors devoted their 
attention t<> a special part of the human frame, the eye, the 
ear, <>r the teeth, and strove to make a wide reputation for 
skill in their BpeciaJ branch of the art. We even find traces 
of distinct schools or sects of physicians, such as that of the 
larpaAcnrrai, who used embrocations and baths, together with 
diet and regimen, rather than herbs or the knife. But the 
poor in all ages of Greece were the ready prey of the lin- 

1 By permission of Messrs. Murray. 


scientific quacks who went from market-place to market-place 
boasting the value of their own special nostrum, or of wise 
men and women, who professed to cure by the use of magical 
arts. Indeed, the line between medicine and magic was a very 
shadowy one; the ancients did not widely distinguish the 
effects of herbs and regimen from those of spells and incan- 
tations, €7ro)Sat, and the latter were openly mingled with the 
former by all but the trained physicians. A prominent place 
was occupied among magicians in Hellenistic times by the 
priests of Isis, Cybele, and other outlandish deities. 



It is generally known that the Greeks, like all nations on the 
same level of civilisation, attached extraordinary importance to 
the due performance of the funeral rites. This was the first 
and most sacred duty of a man's heirs ; and the strong desire 
of the Greeks to have a son was in great part caused by the 
hope that a son would duly perform the funeral rites. The 
son who would utterly renounce his father threatened that he 
would not bury him. 1 It is well known what an extraordinary 
passion of rage and shame swept over the Athenian people 
when they heard that their fallen comrades had been left un- 
buried at Arginusae. Becker supposes that the care for sepulture 
arose originally from prudential consideration for the living ; 
but there is no doubt that it is a survival of some of the most 
primitive and deep-seated feelings of our race, according to 
which the man unburied has no home, is exposed to the in- 
clemency of the weather and the attacks of wild beasts. It 
was very long before mankind recognised that the dead are 
insensible to these inconveniences. 2 This fancy dictated among 
the Greeks the belief that the souls of the unburied were not 
admitted to Hades, but wandered disconsolate in the neigh- 
bourhood of their bodies. In war-time it was an acknowledged 
principle that each side should bury their own dead ; but if 
this were not possible, a Greek would not hesitate to bury a 

1 Aleestis, 665. 

2 So Lucretius, iii, 878. " Facit esse sui quiddam super inscius 


Greek foe, except in cases where I here was excessive exaspera- 
tion. It is considered most harsh and cruel in the Antigone 
that Creon should forbid the burial of the body of his enemy 

Immediately on a man's death, his eyes and mouth were 
closed by his nearest relative and a cloth placed over his head. 
Then fche women of the family washed and salved the corpse, 
dressed it in clean white attire, adorned it with Taiviai or 
woollen fillets, crowned it with flowers and wreaths of vine and 
the plant called opiyavos, 1 and laid it on a state couch, with the 
face turned tow r ards the door. In the mouth, the usual Greek 
receptacle for small change, Mas placed the obol, the vavXov or 
fee of Charon, which is still frequently found in that situation 
when Greek graves are searched. That a honey-cake (/xeAiTTovo-a) 
for Cerberus was placed in the hand of the dead is asserted by 
the Scholiast of Aristophanes, 2 but has been doubted. Friends 
and relatives were then invited to come and pay the dead a 
last visit, and thronged about his couch amid the lamentations 
of mourners and the wailing dirge of hired singing-women 
(Op^vioSol). Each guest took farewell in his own way, and as 
he departed sprinkled himself with water from a vessel placed 
before the house-door, so as to purify himself from ceremonial 
uncleanness. In modern Greece a vessel of consecrated water 
is placed beside the corpse with a similar view. This solemn 
7rp60€(ris took place on the day after death, and might serve a 
useful purpose as well as gratify the feelings of friends, because 
it offered security that the dead man had not been made away 
with, and that he was really dead and in no trance. Solon 
spared the custom in his legislation, though he made sumptuary 
laws to restrain the extravagant show of grief in the house 
of death. 3 

1 Aristoph. Ecclcsiaz. 1030. specially mentions the opiyavos. 

2 Aristoph. Lysist. 600, and Scholiast. 

3 A number of scenes of Trpddecns are represented on Greek vases and 
tablets, especially on the Xovrpocpopoi, of which we have spoken under the 
head of Marriage, the vessels used for bringing water from the spring for 
the nuptial bath, and on the white Attic Ickythi, which were specially 
made to be placed in graves. On a prehistoric Athenian vase (Mon. ddV 
Inst. ix. 39) we see the deceased lying on a couch amid wailing relatives 
and mourners. Later scenes of similar import will be found in our 
engraving, and in Benndorf's Griccli. und Sicil. Vasenbilder, PI. i., xxxiii. ; 
Mon. dell' Inst. viii. 5, &c. Sometimes about the couch flutter souls, 
depicted as minute winged figures, who seem to have come to accompany 
the spirit to the land of Hades. That the women who throng these 
scenes are usually relatives may be seen from Benndorf, PI, i., where the 
names sister, aunt, and the like are written beside various mourners. 



On the day after the Trpodecns took place the €K(f>opd or 
burial, which was accomplished early in the morning before 
the sun had risen. On a couch, probably that on which it 
had lain in state, the body was brought forth, carefully tended 
and decked, crowned with a wreath and clad in fair robes, and 
placed on a waggon or on the shoulders of selected friends to be 
borne to the cemetery. According to the Solonic law, the men 
walked before the bier and the women followed it, 1 but only 

Fig. 28. — Prothesis. (Pottier, Lecythcs Blancs, pi. 1.) 

women who were above sixty years of age or near relatives 
were allowed to be present. The wailing women, who had 
been stationed in the room with the corpse, followed it to the 
grave, 2 making loud lamentations, and flute-players accom- 
panied their lamentations. 

Formerly it was disputed whether the Greeks buried or 
burned their dead, but it is now recognised that both 
customs existed simultaneously. This it would be easy to 

Demosth. p. 107 1. 

2 Plato, Laws, vii. p. 800. 


prove from passages of the classical writers, with whom 

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KaTopvTTcti' and kcuciv both frequently occur in describing the 


process of disposing of the dead, 1 but their citation is the 
less necessary because excavations on the site of Greek ceme- 
teries disclose to us in near proximity to one another the 
bones of the buried and the ashes of the burned. It is pro- 
bable that the custom varied with classes and with times. In 
Homeric times we hear much of burning; but on the other 
hand, the stories of how the bones of Theseus were moved to 
Athens, and those of Orestes to Sparta, show that in popular 
belief those heroes were buried. It would seem that burning 
became less usual during the historic ages, and was reserved 
for more distinguished men. Nor was it universal even in 
their case. We hear, for instance, that when a Spartan king 2 
died abroad, his body was embalmed in honey and brought 
home for burial. The practice of burning seems to have 
revived in the third and second centuries B.C., and at a later 
period the repugnance felt by the Christians for burning some- 
what recommended it to the Pagan part of the community. 
But the difficulty and expense of burning caused it at all 
periods of Greek history to be somewhat exceptional, a dis- 
tinction reserved for the few. 

In cases of burning, the pyre (irvpa) was probably erected at 
or near the place reserved for the tomb. After the pyre had 
burned itself out, the human ashes, which are easily to be dis- 
tinguished from those of wood, were carefully collected and 
placed in a vase of clay or bronze. 3 In cases of burial, a coffin 
was unusual, but sometimes a chest of wood or terra-cotta, or 
even a stone sarcophagus, was used. The friends, standing by 
the grave as it was filled, threw in terra-cotta images or vessels 
or ornaments such as the dead had loved, and such as are now 
found scattered in and over Greek tombs. 

Beyond these we hear of no ceremonies ; no oration, as among 
the Romans, except in the rare case of a public funeral ; no 
prayers and no religious usages. The body was laid in the 
ground and covered up, and the company returned to the 
house of the nearest relative, where the funeral feast (TrepiSeL-rrvov) 
was spread. We are told that the sight of it tended in an 
extraordinary degree to remove the traces of grief from the 

1 Cf. Phcedo, 115 E. 2 Xenophon, Hell. v. 3, 19. 

3 The funeral pyre and the collection of the ashes are represented on 
several Greek vases. On a vase published by Gerhard {Ant. Bildwerke, 
pi. 31) is represented the burning of the body of Herakles, while he him- 
self is borne aloft in a quadriga. A woman meantime pours wine or 
water on the embers, in order to extinguish them, so that the ashes may be 



faces of tli c mourners. The deceased man was regarded as the 
host, and speeches were made in which he was highly lauded. 
Sometimes, when many people fell by a common catastrophe, 
one feast was held in honour of all. Thus after the hattle of 
Chaeroneia the TreplSetirvov was held at the house of Demos- 
thenes, who had been selected to make the funeral oration. 

At intervals sacrifices were offered at the tomb or fjpyov. 
The first took place on the third day (rptTa), the next on the 
ninth day (eVa/ra). These sacrifices were repeated at the vcKvo-ia, 

Fig. 30.— Child's Coffin, containing Skeleton, Terra-cottas, 
Vases, &c. (Stackelberg, Grabcr t dcr Hellenen, pi. 8.) 

the All-Souls' Day of the ancients, as well as on the birthday 
of the deceased (yevecria), 1 and the anniversary of the day of 
death was also marked by sacrifices. These consisted usually 
of x oa S the ingredients of which are given by yEschylus 2 as 
milk, honey, water, wine, olives, and flowers ; but sometimes 
blood was mingled with the other substances. In all these 
ceremonies we see a close resemblance between Greek customs 
and those of the Egyptians as exhibited in the Egyptian tombs. 
Funeral feasts, the veKvcrta, the furnishing of tombs, were all 

Herodot. iv. 26. 

Pers. 615. 


Egyptian customs, and the early Athenian vase-paintings, which 
give us representations of mourning and of burials, are similar 
to those on the walls of the Egyptian tombs. 

The offerings to the dead are a frequent subject in ancient 
art. On the white Attic lekythi the deceased are commonly 
depicted as seated on the steps of their monuments, while 
votaries bring wreaths, fillets, and other offerings. In the 
reliefs of tombs, especially in later Greece, we have representa- 
tions of heroised men and women banqueting, while figures 
on a smaller scale, no doubt survivors, do them homage. The 
scene of these banquets may be supposed to be either the tomb 
itself or Hades ; the offerings were of course made at the tomb, 
but their effect was supposed to reach the world of shades. 

In an able paper on the tombs of Athens, 1 Dr. Bruckner 
sums up the evidence derived from excavation. He shows 
that in earlier times, the seventh century and thereabouts, 
bodies were seldom burned, almost always buried. The graves 
at this time were roofed with wood ; over them was left a 
ditch containing a large terra-cotta vessel for the reception of 
offerings, while within w T as stored pottery of all sorts, gold 
diadems, iron weapons, spindle-whorls of terra-cotta, and the 
like. After the sumptuary laws of Solon, the contents of 
graves are simpler, only lekythi and unguent vessels, mirrors 
for women, and playthings for children. The legislation of 
Demetrius Phalereus, B.C. 317-307, again increased the sim- 
plicity of burials, and for a century after his time the noble 
sepulchral monuments which had arisen in Athens in such 
numbers during the fourth century entirely cease. 

Tombs erected over bodies buried in the soil sometimes pre- 
served in appearance something of the character of a chapel 
or lieroon with pillars and pediment, but more often take the 
form of simple monuments, upright slabs (o-Trj Aai), or pillars 
(/aoves), set to mark the spot, and to record the memory of the 
dead. The principal roads, as they approached a Greek city, 
were commonly bordered on both sides with long lines of such 
monuments. At Athens a small section of the sacred way leading 
to Eleusis has been preserved in part, and the tombs on each 
side of it still remain where they were erected. Both the 
representations and the inscriptions on these tombs throw an 
interesting light on ancient life, and illustrate admirably the 
Greek notions of death. 2 

1 Archaol. Jahrbuch, Anzciger, 1892, p. 19. 

2 For a fuller account of the character of Greek tombs see my New 
Chapters in Greek History, chaps, x. and xi. 



They usually present to us, carvel in very high relief, a scene 
from the daily life of the deceased person. If lie were a youth 
given (o the Chase, we see him with dogs or attacking the 
hoar. If he were a knight, we see him charging on horsehack. 
If he were shipwrecked, he sits desolately en a rock or else 
OD the treacherous ship. Artisans are represented with the 
tools of their profession; women at their daily task of self- 

Fia, 31. ' — Offerings at Tomb. (Pottier, Lecythcs Biancs, pi. 4. 

adornment, or sporting with children and favourite animals. 
The family meal Lb :i frequent subject of these reliefs; more 
often still there is a scene of departure, where one about to 
start on a journey grasps the hand of wife, brother, or friend. 
Very often we find a domestic scene of no special significance, 

1 The dead man here holds a lyre ; a bird is brought as offering, 
small ghost hovers over the tombstone. 


the family being merely grouped to adorn the family grave. 
Sometimes in place of the upright stele we find a waterpot 
(y8pca or Xovrpo(j)6pos) in stone ; and in such cases modern 
authorities, supported by a passage of Demosthenes, 1 see the 
grave of one who died before marriage. 

The inscriptions on tombs were usually very brief, containing 
little more than would serve to identify the dead, his name, 
his father's name, and that of the city or deme to which he 
belonged. At Athens, in particular, when we find a longer 
epitaph, and especially one in verse, we may be pretty sure 
that the tomb bearing it was either erected at a late date or in 
honour of one of the resident strangers who abounded in the 
city. At Sicyon only the name of the deceased and that of 
his father was placed on a tomb ; the rigorous laws of Sparta 
are said not to have allowed even the name to appear. One 
class of inscriptions, however, which does not quite accord with 
modern notions, deserves special mention. It consists of those 
which express a curse against all who shall interfere with or 
desecrate the tomb. This curse is sometimes expressed at great 
length, and with what is to us loathsome detail. The custom, 
however, does not properly belong to the best times of Greece, 
but to the Macedonian age, when sacrilege had become a less 
rare vice, and the ties which united fellow-citizens were losing 
their force. 

The customs of mourning varied in the various Greek cities. 
The outward signs of it were cutting the hair close and putting 
on black garments. Hence the boast of Pericles, ovSets 81 ifxe 
twv 6vr(x)v ' KQ-qva'usiv fieXav Ifxartov 7r€ptej3a\eTO.' 2 ' At ArgOS, 
however, white is said to have been customary. It was thought 
very unseemly in a mourner to enter the house of feasting or 
do anything inconsistent with grief and retirement. Both men 
and women neglected the care of their persons and ceased all 
personal adornment. The length of the mourning was thirty 
days at Athens and Argos ; at Sparta it was limited to twelve 
days, but at most places it was longer. Indeed, when the lost 
person was a very near relative, we can scarcely imagine that 
the signs of grief were so soon laid aside. 

Certain persons were deprived of the right of formal burial. 
Among these were persons struck by lightning, who were re- 
garded as the prey of a deity ; also traitors to their country, 
and others who had committed notorious crimes. Suicides 
were buried at night in an informal manner, and their right 

1 Ad Leoch. p. 1086. 2 Plutarch, Per id 38. 


hands were cut off. Those who died at sea, were devoured 
by wild beasts, or otherwise disappeared, were honoured with 
cenotaphs by their friends, and some of the funeral ceremonies 
carried through. By the grave of those who had been murdered 
a spear was set in the ground, which the relatives had to 
watch for a space of three days. 1 

1 Duuiusth. in Euerg. p. 11 60. 

2 A 




The Achseans, as they come before us in the Homeric poems, 
are rather a pastoral than an agricultural race. It is in their 
herds of cattle, sheep, and swine, rather than in the produce 
of their lands, that the wealth of the heroic kings consisted. 
It was cattle which furnished them with a measure of value ; 
and cattle, together with slaves, were the most valuable spoil 
which they secured in their military and piratical expeditions. 
Thucydides traces the same lines as Homer. In early times, 
he tells us, 1 the insecurity of property was too great to allow 
of the planting of trees, which would of course lie at the mercy 
of an invading enemy. And although men tilled the ground, 
the harvest would very often fall to the foe, whereas cattle 
could on an alarm be driven to a place of safety. 

We read of kings' sons who were herdsmen and shepherds, 
such as Paris and Ganymedes and Anchises : and Eumaeus 
the divine swineherd seems to have been a person of conse- 
quence in the island of Ithaca. In some instances, too, they 
are represented as occupied in agriculture. In the stately 
scenes of the Homeric shield, while the reapers cut and bind 
the corn, the master stands by, leaning on his staff and rejoic- 
ing in his heart. But the aged Laertes, father of Odysseus, is 
found by that hero clad in skins labouring in digging his own 
land. And the story goes, that when the chiefs came to fetch 
Odysseus himself to the war against Troy, they found him, like 
Cincinnatus, occupied in ploughing. But Odysseus and all his 
belongings are at a lower stage of material splendour than the 
heroes of iEacid and Pelopid race. 

1 Thucyd. i. 2. 



It is probable that the downfall of the Achaean race was 
followed by a time of greater simplicity, when the aristocracy 
of the ( iiv.k tribes lived on their estates in the midst of slaves 
and retainers, as did the wealthy inhabitants of Elis even in 
the times of the Adiaan League. But Greek civic life began 
to develop with irresistible attraction. The rich thronged more 
and more into cities, and left the work of their farms to bailiffs 
and slaves. There were in particular two states wherein the 
country life fell into the background; Athens, after the terri- 
tory of the city had been wasted first by the Persians and 
afterwards by the Lacedaemonians, and the inhabitants of 
Attica cooped within the city walls; and Sparta, where the 
tendency of the proud burghers was to despise all pursuits 
except war and the chase. But we have no reason to suppose 
that this happened in the same degree in the other Greek 
cities. Even at Athens, although the witty and luxurious 
citizens ridiculed the yeoman, avrovpyos, as aypoLKos and a lout, 
they could not deny his solid virtues. In the (Economicus 
Kenophon brings before us Ischomachus as one of the wealthiest 
and most respected citizens of Athens, who understands in the 
utmost detail the management of crops and trees, and is accus- 
tomed daily to visit and inspect his farm. Another pupil of 
rates, Euripides, goes so far in the Orestes 1 as to say, 
avrovpybsf o'irrep kolL (jlovol orwfavo-i yyv, and to describe for an 
Athenian audience a manly fellow full of sense and spirit, but 
a stranger to the city and the Agora. The farmers of Aristo- 
phanes are not at all unkindly treated by him, and Strepsiades, 
one of them, marries a lady of the highest family. Thucydides 2 
make- Pericles speak of the Peloponnesians, who composed 
the bulk of the Spartan army, as avrovpyot. Until the age 
of Alexander and professional mercenaries, all the armies of 
( rreece were largely composed of men from the plough and the 
fold ; and all history shows that avrovpyot make the best of sol- 
diers. The mere hired workers, on the contrary, were utterly 


In all this we find traces of archaic customs which belonged 
to the entire Aryan race. The house, together with the field 
surrounding it, which was marked off by terminal stones, was 
the original domain of the self-contained Aryan family, within 
which the head of each family was supreme. Hence the pos- 
session of a domain was long considered necessary for the 
citizen, and always until the present day property in land has 

1 Ortdett on. &<•. - Thucyd. I. 141. 


been more highly valued and conferred greater distinction than 
any other class of wealth. 

As a whole, Greece is a country by no means favourable to 
agriculture. There are a few rich plains, more especially those 
of Thessaly and Messenia, but the country is mostly rocky, 
barren, and uneven, especially unsuitable for large farms. 
Hence the wealthy families of Greece did not, like the Roman 
patricians, possess large landed estates, but invested their funds 
in slaves, ships, or the mines. The system of farming was 
that adapted to peasant proprietors or yeomen ; and as early as 
the time of Hesiod we find a set of manners and a tone of 
morality appropriate to that class. Curtius l remarks that on 
mountain slopes in Peloponnese one continually finds artificial 
terraces, which bear witness to the care of the ancient culti- 
vator, terraces such as in our day are constructed by the peasant 
growers of vines on the Swiss or French hillsides. At present 
Greece is sadly in want of water. The streams disappear in 
the spring, and for the rest of the year the country presents 
stony wastes alternating with occasional swamps. But in old 
days great care was taken to construct canals and reservoirs, 
and lead the water to each plot of land from the springs, an 
operation mentioned even by Homer. 2 The draining of marshes, 
also, a work requiring abundant co-operation, was carried on 
all over Greece at so early a time that many of these drainage 
systems passed for the work of Herakles and other legendary 
heroes. The keeping in order of canals and watercourses was 
provided for by many laws, and at some places there were even 
magistrates 3 (Kprjviov eVi/xeA^rai) intrusted with the oversight 
of them. As Greece is a land of springs and not of rivers, this 
care made all the difference to its fertility. 

Hesiod 4 speaks of two kinds of ploughs, one avroyvov, or 
formed of a single piece of wood, the other ir-qKrov, or put 
together. The former is the more primitive. The plough in 
use among the Greeks at a later time consisted of a beam of 
oak, to the upper surface of which was fitted a pole to which 
the draught- oxen were tied, and an upright pole with cross- 
piece which was grasped by the plougher. Immediately under 
this second pole, on the lower side of the beam, was fixed the 
iron ploughshare. The great cheapness of labour in Greece 
and the paucity of capital stood in the way of improvements 
in this very rude instrument ; and, in fact, much of the pre- 

1 Peloponnesos, i. 78. 2 II. xxi. 257. g Arist. Pol. vi. 8. 

4 Works and Days, 432. Cf. Schreiber, Bilderatlas, pi. 64. 


paration of fields for sowing was done by slaves armed with 
mattocks. Besiod 1 draws a curious picture of a slave follow- 
ing the sower of seed with a spade and covering the seed with 
earth to prevent the birds from getting it. The crop when 
ripe was cut with a crescent-shaped sickle, and apparently the 
stalks so cut were gathered by hand 2 and tied into bundles. 
Tin' threshing of corn was accomplished by the feet of cattle, 
which were driven over it. The straw was not cut close to the 
ground, but a considerable length left standing, to be presently 
ploughed into the ground for manure. 

With regard to manuring generally, the ancients took con- 
siderable pains. Dung was spread on the land even in 
Homer's 8 time. When the land had lain fallow, and so was 
covered with weeds, it was ploughed, and the weeds thrown on 
it to dry in the sun and so increase its fertility. We even 
bear of mixing of earths, rich with poor, heavy with light, and 
so forth. Thrice a year did the plough pass over the field, in 
early spring, in summer, and in autumn just before the sow- 
ing- Greek farmers were alive no less than English to the 
advantage of deep ploughing, 4 that the raw earth may be 
well exposed to the sun. Sowing began about nth November, 
at the setting of the Pleiads, 5 a few days before the winter 
rains were expected to set in, and harvest at the rising of the 
same constellation in May. The labour of the field did not 
'•ud with sowing ; hoeing had to be done on either side of the 
standing lines of corn; and on specially good soil, such as that 
of Sicily, the young corn was sometimes mowed down to pre- 
vent it from growing too strong in straw. 

There can be no doubt that agriculture in Attica suffered 
more and more as time went on, though to a less degree than 
that of Italy in Imperial times, from the competition of richer 
soils. Great cargoes of corn from Egypt and Sicily and the 
Black Sea constantly arrived in the Piraeus, and the people of 
Athens learned the fatal lesson that it was easier to buy 
ultural produce with money wrung from the allies or 
extracted from the mines at Laurium than to grow it on the 
ragged soil round Athens. For a long while after Solon's 
legislation the yeoman held his own, but the class never 
recovered from the effects of the Peloponnesian war, when for 
a long time Attica outside the walls of Athens was utterly 

1 Works arid Ihnjs, 469. - Iliad, xviii. 553. 

1 <></. xvii. 297. * Xenoph. (Kcon. 16, 12. 

II' nod, World and Days, 383. 


unsafe. The farmers took refuge in the city, and either 
sank into members of the city mob, or found their way to 
Kkrjpov)(Lai beyond the seas. 

Grass-lands in Greece were mostly used for pasture, and not 
kept for hay, a rule arising from the nature of the Greek soil 
and the absence of spring rain. The planting of vines was an 
important branch of industry, and one which occupied many 
hands. The vines were mostly trained on stakes, sometimes on 
other trees ; and the feast which accompanied the gathering of 
the grapes was of a joyous and self-indulgent character. As 
the Greeks lived mostly on vegetable food, the spade-industry 
of the vegetable garden must have flourished. Oil, also, for 
the needs of cookery and for rubbing the body, was required in 
great quantities ; that of Attica was noted for its excellence ; 
but wherever the Greek went to settle, the olive-tree accom- 
panied him. Flowers were grown for sale ; the vending of the 
numerous kinds of wreaths used at various times occupying a 
section of the market; but private gardens were not usual 
in cities, there being indeed no room for them. Only in the 
suburbs could they extend ; the example of Epicurus in late 
times gave a stimulus to their spread. 

With regard to their live stock, the Greeks from very early 
times took pains with the breed, and endeavoured to improve 
it. Thus we hear that Polycrates imported into Samos sheep 
from Athens and Miletus, and dogs from Lacedaemon and 
Epirus. Theognis remarks on the fact that the best goats, 
donkeys, and horses are chosen for stud purposes. At a later 
time Philip of Macedon imported into Macedon thousands of 
Scythian mares. The horse was not used for purposes of farm- 
ing, and was at all times somewhat scarce in Greece. It was 
used in war and for riding when the master was on a journey, 
as well as for racing purposes, whether detached or harnessed 
to one of the racing chariots of later Greece. From the small 
numbers of the Greek cavalry we may judge of the paucity of 
Greek horses. Thessaly was pre-eminently their country, as 
is shown by the legends of the Thessalian Centaurs. Yet the 
whole number of Thessalian cavalry is reckoned by the Phar- 
salian Polydamas l at six thousand, and by Isocrates 2 at about 
three thousand. Boeotia was also a country celebrated for its 
horses, yet in the battle of Delium 3 we find only a thousand 
Bceotian cavalry, while at the battle of Corinth in B.C. 394 
they amounted to but eight hundred. At the same battle 

1 Xenoph. Helltn. vi. I, 8. - Isocr. de Pace, 118. 

a Thucyd. iv. 93. 


there were present only six hundred Athenian cavalry, and it is 
improbable that the cavalry force of Athens in Athens' greatest 
time exceeded twelve hundred. The Lacedaemonians had little 
cavalry except mercenaries. Speaking generally, we may fairly 
assume that in the autonomous times of Greece wealthy men 
kept one horse. Only the very wealthy could compete at the 
Olympian chariot-race. This statement is confirmed by the 
fact that in Attica a poor horse cost three minas, a good one 
twelve, while for Bucephalus Alexander is said to have given 
thirteen talents. 

The place of horses on farms or for purposes of drawing was 
taken by mules and asses, which were frequently used for the 
plough and in carts. The asses of the mountainous Arcadia 
and the mares of Elis produced a notable breed of mules, such 
as drew the mule-chariots in the Olympic races. Anaxilaus of 
Rhegium was so proud of winning the Olympian race with 
a biga of mules, that he adopted it thenceforth as the type of 
his coins. Oxen, sheep, and goats found abundant pasture in 
early times in Greece. Oxen in particular seem to have been 
in the Homeric age very abundant. 

Early in the fourth century B.C. we learn from Attic inscrip- 
tions that oxen for sacrifice cost fifty to eighty drachms. The 
fact is that after the legislation of Solon the plough gradually 
encroached more and more on the pastures of the cattle, and 
the numbers of the latter diminished. We even hear of their 
importation from the shores of the Black Sea. Apparently 
they were used for sacrifice rather than other purposes; for 
milking goats were much preferred. The Greeks drank milk 
and made it into cheese, though they do not seem to have used 
butter, and goats were kept almost exclusively to supply those 
articles of food. Sheep were of the greatest use to the Greeks, 
as their ilesh was the usual animal food, and of their wool 
much of the dress of both men and women was made. Hence 
great care was taken to improve the breed, and the wool of fine 
sheep was often protected from injury by clothing the animal 
while yet alive in a skin. Asia Minor was a great wool-pro- 
ducing region, the district of Miletus especially noted. The 
shepherds were very numerous in proportion to the sheep they 
tended, one to fifty, or at least one to a hundred, the labour of 
slaves being very cheap and very ineffective. Of great pasture 
farms we find an interesting record in an inscription from 
Orchomenufl in Bceotia, 1 where is recorded the letting of 
pasture for two hundred and twenty horses and cattle and a 

1 C. /. G. 1569 a. 


thousand sheep and goats. The pig was commoner in the 
Homeric times of the divine Eumseus and in the ruder parts 
of Greece, such as Arcadia and iEtolia, than in the regions of 
greater refinement. Fowls were kept perhaps less for the sake 
of their flesh and eggs, though these were of course used, than 
in order to produce a breed of fighting-cocks for a sport very 
popular in Greece. Penelope in Ithaca amuses herself by 
keeping a flock of geese, to which she is much attached. 
Quails were also kept for fighting, and pheasants for the 
luxury of the tables of the rich. Last, but by no means least 
important of Greek domestic creatures, we may name the bee, 
the cultivation of which was bestowed by the Nymphs, accord- 
ing to the legend, on Aristseus of Cos. Honey being used 
among the ancients for most of the purposes for which we use 
sugar, the quantity of it required must have been enormous, 
and the cultivation of the bee proportionally important. 
Virgil devotes an entire book of the Georgics to the subject ; 
and though his precepts, borrowed no doubt from Greek 
sources, show great ignorance as to the real nature of bees, 
they show some skill in the tending of them. 

The wild animals were never in historical Greece in suffi- 
cient quantities to employ a class of hunters ; hunting was 
practised by the wealthy classes as a means of health and 
exercise. There were traditions of great hunts of formidable 
monsters in the heroic age, when bands of heroes assembled to 
rid the country of a peril. Lions were not forgotten in Greece, 
though in historical times they did not penetrate farther south 
than Macedonia and Thrace, and even in Thrace were extinct 
about the first century of our era. The bear and the wolf, 
largely mixed in local mythology in the Peloponnese, appear to 
have still infested mountains in historic times. The boar or 
the stag were the usual objects of great hunting-parties, but 
the hare was a common prey, and looked on as the usual spoil 
of the hunter. Dogs and nets were the means employed for its 
capture, the hunter following on foot. The time of Alexander 
witnessed a great revival of the spirit of hunting. The heart 
of Asia furnished that king and his captains with abundant 
game, and they entered eagerly into the pursuit, showing their 
prowess by single-handed contests with boar or lion. The 
hunting-dogs employed by the Lacedaemonians on Mount Tay- 
getus and by the primitive Molossians of Epirus were cele- 
brated in antiquity, but, if we may trust their representations 
in art, were not very powerful when compared to the splendid 
hounds of the Assyrian kings. 


Fishing, on the contrary, employed a largo number of ships 
and hands, and supplied a considerable proportion of the food 
of the ancients. At Athens fish was eaten in the place of 
meat. The supply to the fish-markets, which abounded in 
Greek cities, consisted partly of fresh fish caught on the coasts 
of Greece by the inhabitants of villages such as Anthedon, 
partly of cured and salt fish imported from abroad. The great 
source of the latter was the Black Sea, and especially the 
Bosphorus and the mouth of the Borysthenes, where tunnies 
abounded in vast shoals. The eels of the Copaic Lake in 
Bceotia were celebrated, and oysters a favourite dish. But 
among shell-fish the most valuable was sought not for eating, 
but as furnishing a purple die, and this was found abundantly 
on the coasts of Crete and the Peloponnese, whither its presence 
had in early times attracted the Sidonian mariners. 

A considerable revenue was extracted by the ancient as by 
the modern Greeks from the, which were shallow lagoons 
on the borders of the sea. In the winter a way was opened from 
them to the Mediterranean, and they became full of sea-water. 
In the summer this way of communication was blocked, and 
the lagoons dried up, leaving at the bottom a deposit of salt, 
which could be cut into blocks and used. 



The manufactures of Greece, as contrasted with the products 
of her artistic activity, never reached the excellence we might 
have expected in so ingenious a people. The reason must be 
sought in two circumstances: first, that each household pro- 
ducing a considerable proportion of the things it consumed, 
things so produced were of a rough and domestic kind ; 
secondly, that handicraft was in the best ages of Greece de- 
spised, and considered fit rather for slaves and foreigners than 
citizens. In Homeric times we find less of such contempt. 
One of the Olympic deities, Hepluestus, occupies a respectable 
position, though a smith ; some of the Homeric heroes are sons 
of workmen, and some of Homer's best similes are borrowed 
from the mechanical arts. To him the smith and carpenter is 
a wise man, a welcome guest of princes, and a favourite of 
Pallas Athena. With Phoenician wares in those early days 


the Greeks imported Semitic ideas as to skilled workmen, who 
in Syria were supposed to enjoy special divine favour. The 
crafts mentioned by Homer are those of the carpenter (t€ktwv), 
the maker of spears, the maker of chariots, the worker in 
horn, the worker in bronze, the goldsmith, the leather-cutter, 
and the potter. The more skilled workmen wandered from 
place to place : work of an ordinary character was carried on 
on the estates of the kings, as is evident from the speech of 
Achilles when he proposes a mass of iron as a prize, 1 that 
" the winner will not have to go to the town for five years to 
fetch iron, but have it ready for shepherd and ploughman." 
Odysseus can build a ship with his own hands, and himself 
unaided wrought the couch in his bedchamber at Ithaca. 

That in historic times all handworkers (8r)[xtovpyoi) together 
with their handicrafts sank lower in the general esteem is 
undeniable. They did so for two reasons : firstly, because the 
man who produces anything for sale is to some extent at the 
beck and call of all purchasers. Aristotle 2 says that he only 
differs from a slave in being subject to all instead of to one 
man. Secondly, the sedentary and within-door (fidvavo-os) 
nature of the crafts unfitted the man who exercised them for 
war and the chase, which were considered the most dignified 
employments. And at a later time the popular prejudice 
against handiwork was fully adopted by the philosophers, who, 
despising the body and its needs, scorned those who ministered 
to merely material enjoyments and necessities. So Plato 
makes the operatives the lowest class in his ideal Republic, 
and gives them no voice in its government. 

It w T as the natural result of so general a feeling that in most 
parts of Greece manufactures were left to slaves and resident 
aliens ; but the custom varied in various places. We hear of 
Corinth, essentially a trading city, as the place where handi- 
workers were least looked down on ; and no doubt the asser- 
tion holds of the numerous colonies spread by Corinth over the 
coasts of Acarnania and Epirus. At Thebes, on the other 
hand, no man was eligible for a magistracy if he had within 
ten years practised any manufacture. At Sparta, as might 
have been expected, the prejudice was still stronger. A 
Spartan would have deemed himself disgraced irretrievably by 
the pursuit of any mechanical art. So we are told that king 
Agesilaiis, washing to keep up the spirit of his Spartans, one 
day at a review of his whole force, having ordered the army to 

1 II. xxiii. 834. 2 Polit. iii. 3, 3. 


sit down, then called upon the practisers of each trade, potters, 
tailors, and so forth to rise by classes one after the other. On 
which we hear that nearly all the allies rose, but not a single 
Spartan. The Spartans considered a life of leisure necessary to 
the acquirement of a manly and spirited nature. And that the 
philosophers took not a dissimilar view is shown by the Socratic 
saying that Idleness and Liberty are sisters. 

At Athens we find considerable fluctuations in the estimate 
held of handworkers. The laws of Solon compelled poor 
burghers to bring up their sons to a trade, on penalty of 
exempting the sons, if they were not so taught, from the duty 
of supporting their aged parents. They also forbade ridiculing 
any man in public on account of his trade. And there can be 
no doubt that at all times a number of poor citizens practised 
handicrafts. In Xenophon we find Socrates rallying young 
Charmides, who was nervous about speaking in the Ecclesia, 
asking him whether he were afraid of hucksters, smiths, and 
the like, for of such the assembly consisted. We hear also 
that in the year B.C. 322 there were 12,000 Athenian citizens 
who possessed less than 2000 drachms. Most of these must 
have exercised a trade, as a family could not live at Athens 
on the interest of much less than 2000 drachms. But the 
best of proofs is furnished by an Athenian inscription of 
about the 93rd Olympiad, which records the sums paid on 
account of public buildings, and we find that of the stone- 
cutters and carvers there mentioned about two-thirds were 
Metoeci and one-third Athenian citizens. After the lands of 
Attica had been ravaged by the Peloponnesians, a number of 
citizens who had lived by agriculture were obliged to turn to 
trade. Even women were obliged to take wages as weavers 
and nurses, though by so doing they thought themselves 

When, however, we hear of prominent citizens as exercising 
such and such a trade, we must not understand it always liter- 
ally. It may mean only that he possessed a factory where the 
trade in question was carried on by his slaves. Thus Cleon 
inherited a factory for tanning, and Hyperbolus possessed a 
lamp-factory. In both these cases the work was no doubt 
carried on by slaves under slave-overseers, and the masters 
only exercised a general supervision. The comic poets of 
course overlooked this nice distinction. Demosthenes, as we 
know, inherited two factories, one of swords, the other of 
couches; and it was the custom in Athens for those who had 
much capital invested in slaves to set them to work in manu- 


factories or let them out in the mines. Only those too poor to 
buy slaves had to work themselves. 

The lowest class of operatives, who differed but little from 
slaves, were those who let themselves out for hire by the day, 
lALcrdu>Toi. To this sad position were reduced many burghers, 
both at Athens and elsewhere, in the course of the Pelopon- 
nesian war, losing their lands, and being unable to exercise a 
trade for want of capital and training. How such were treated 
by the wealthy may be judged from the account in Plato's 
Euthyphro of the hired labourer who, having killed a slave, is 
flung bound into a ditch, and dies of cold and neglect. We 
hear that Menedemus and Asclepiades, whose days were passed 
in philosophising, spent the night in labour in the service of a 
miller, labour noted for its severity and rewarded at the rate of 
two drachms a day. We are told that the Spartan Eteonicus, 
in the course of the Peloponnesian war, caused his soldiers to 
labour in Chios to provide the sineivs of war, and at a later 
period Iphicrates followed his example. But it must be con- 
fessed that, in the time of Iphicrates, the ordinary resource of 
the poor was to become mercenary soldiers, to turn from labour 
to war, and not in the opposite direction. 

We hear little among the Greeks of systems of caste, or of 
employments being hereditary in families. One of the early 
tribes of Attica was the 'EpydSecs or handiworkers, but we have 
no reason to think that the members of that tribe were at all 
restricted in their choice of means of living. At Sparta, 1 
indeed, the occupations of cook, flute-player, and herald seem 
to have been hereditary. Still more in the nature of castes 
were the Asclepiadas of Cos, the Dsedalidse of Crete, and the 
HomeridaB of Chios, which families seem to have rigorously 
excluded strangers ; but they practised professions rather than 
mechanical arts; and we may better compare them to the 
hereditary colleges of priests than suppose them castes like 
those of Egypt and Hindostan. Guilds or voluntary organisa- 
tions of workmen are traced in Asia Minor under Koman 
dominion. Thus in Thyatira 2 we find organised bodies of 
dyers, tanners, potters, and so forth, who elect officers and pass 
decrees ; but we have no trace of such organisation at an 
earlier period or in Hellas itself. 

We may be sure from the immense numbers of the slaves 
maintained at Athens, Corinth, and iEgina, that in the great 
commercial cities of Greece there were large factories filled 

1 Herod, vi. 60. 2 C. I. G. 3496-8, 3485, &c. 


with slaves, the products of which were known far and wide. 
Thearion and Cyrcbus at Athens baked vast quantities of bread, 
Attic bread being celebrated, and made their fortunes. Nausi- 
cydes at Athens had mills for grinding flour so numerous or 
extensive that he fed a large herd of cattle on the husks. 1 
Special houses were noted for particular descriptions of goods, 
and sometimes the fame spread to the people of a whole city. 

Hermann 2 observes that we may make a convenient division 
of employments into four classes, accordingly as they were con- 
cerned with houses, furniture, clothes, and food respectively. 
In ancient, as in modern days, the separation of employments 
was carried farthest in great cities, while it scarcely existed 
in the villages. 

In the construction of public buildings the supreme direction 
rested of course with the architect, who was frequently also a 
sculptor, and who enjoyed high reputation. Under him worked 
masons and carpenters (tcktovc?). We possess an interesting 
record, drawn up b.c. 409, 3 of the sums paid to the masons at 
work on the Erechtheium at Athens. They appear to have 
been partly citizens and partly metoeci. The sum paid for 
the working of marble was sixty drachms (about £2) for an 
ordinary figure in relief on the frieze : possibly the model was 
the work of a noted sculptor, which the masons had to repro- 
duce, though not slavishly, in stone. 

For ordinary houses, made of wood and brick, and without 
artistic decoration, an ordinary builder (oikoSo/xos) 4 would 
suffice. The materials of building would come from the yards 
of the brickmakers (irkcvdovpyol), from the timber merchants, 
and from the quarries. In these last the labour was done by 
slaves, either criminals or captives of war. The great Xarofxca 
of Syracuse remain almost as they were at the time when the 
captive Athenian army was driven into them, and a visit to 
them impresses on the mind almost as much as a visit to the 
mines of Laurium how squalid were the conditions and how 
miserable the lives of slaves among the Greeks. Crowded 
together in dense throngs, exposed to the inclemency of the 
weather, without any provision for the necessities and decencies 
of life, labouring under the lash of brutal taskmasters, and at 
night lying in straw and filth, we cannot wonder that in a few 
months or years they found a death which can scarcely have 
been unwelcome. 

1 Xenoph. Memorab. ii. 7, 6. 8 Privut'tlt. chap. 43. 

3 Of. Overbeck, Griech. Plastik, i. 475. 4 Plato, Protag. 319 B. 



The furniture of houses would be produced mostly in factories, 
such as those already spoken of, in the possession of wealthy 
citizens. Of the utmost importance were the trades of the 
worker in metal and of the potter. Chalcis, iEgina, Corinth, 
and even Etruria, had at various times the highest reputation 
for utensils in bronze : the commoner utensils of iron were 
produced in most places. In pottery of the finer kind, after 
the time of the Persian wars, no city could compare with 
Athens. The great quarters of the outer and inner Cerameicus 
swarmed with potters. The earth of Cape Colias was regarded 
as without an equal for quality and colour j but it was really 

Fig. 32.— Vase-Factory. (Rayet et Collignon, Ceram. gr. p. iii. 1 ) 

the greater taste and capacity for art which distinguished the 
workmen of Athens and gave them the victory over all rivals 
in the trade. The result was that the finer kinds of vases, used 
for the decoration of houses or the furnishing of tombs, were 
everywhere imported from Attica ; and excavations in Etruria, 
Sicily, Cyprus, or the Crimea bring to light few fine vessels 
which were not made in the Cerameicus. 

As every housewife was devoted to the labours of the loom, 
abundant material for ordinary clothing would be forthcoming in 

1 A notable point in this vase-painting is that one of the workpeople is 
a woman. Two of the workmen are being crowned by Athena and 


every well-regulated household. It was only garments of finer 
texture or more elaborate pattern which had to be bought of the 
merchant. Probably at all times carpets and raiment of the 
finest kind were imported from the East, works of the " rich dye 
of Tyre and the fine web of Nile." But we have a description J 
of a garment of great beauty made by Greeks on Oriental lines, 
and belonging to Alcimenes of Sybaris. It was fifteen cubits 
long, of genuine purple dye, and inwoven with figures of Greek 
deities, bordered on each side by rows of animals such as are 
found on early vases. Megara produced working dresses: 
Patrse was especially noted for factories of textile wares in 
which the byssus of Elis was worked up ; these were mostly 
the work of women, who abounded in that city, and not un- 
naturally introduced much dissoluteness into manners. At Cos 
and Amorgos were woven the delicate and transparent robes 
which the wealthy affected, and which philosophers despised 
as effeminate. As to the nature and sources of Greek food, 
something has already been said (Bk. iv. ch. 3). 

Professional men, that is, those who make a living by educa- 
tion and intellect, did not enjoy among the Greeks anything 
like so good a reputation or so high a position as among modern 
nations. For the Greeks never gave up the idea that it was 
/3dvav(Tov, vulgar and low, to take money in return for such 
services as professional men render. Hence, many of the more 
respectable of those who exercised learned pursuits took no 
money for their pains. 

The most important professions in Greece were those of 
teaching and medicine, of which I have already spoken (Bk. 
iv. ch. i and 6). 

There was no legal profession in Greece. The task of de- 
fending the accused in law-courts fell either upon himself or 
on any friend who would undertake the task. The prosecutor 
likewise had to rely on his own powers and those of friends. 
Nevertheless, there were in later times, at Athens at all events, 
two classes of men besides the dicasts who made money out 
of legal proceedings. One consisted of those orators who wrote 
speeches for others to deliver. Antiphon of Rhamnus is said 
to have been the first to take money for a written speech ; but 
in the next age that example was followed by most of the great 
orators, Lysias, Isseus, Isocrates, Demosthenes himself. Nor did 
tliry write for pay only speeches to be used in the law-courts, 
but also political orations. The other class consisted of syco- 

1 Aristotle (?), I)e Mirab. Auscult. 96. 


phants, who were very numerous and troublesome. As the law 
at Athens allowed any citizen who heard of the commission of 
certain offences to prosecute the committer, it became frequently 
necessary for those who transgressed to bribe intending prose- 
cutors to silence. Even where a man was innocent, the chances 
of the law-courts were such that it was often wiser for him to 
compound by payment. The accuser also in case of conviction 
received a share of the fine. Hence, a large class of men arose 
who lived on fines and on hush-money, and it may readily be 
guessed that their character was most unscrupulous, and that 
they were ready to be the tools of political and private enmity. 

Nor had Greece any class of literary men who lived by the 
pen ; but in this case too the rudiments of such a class may 
be traced. When the singer or reciter of Homeric ballads 
repeated other poets' verses or extemporised his own in the 
court of one of the petty kings or in the market-place of a city, 
he no doubt had his reward ; and we know that at a some- 
what later time the lyric poets, like Pindar and Simonides, 
received money from the patrons whose families they extolled, 
or whose victories in the games they sang. Later still, the 
courts of the successors of Alexander were thronged by poets 
who received pay in return for flatteries and dedications. The 
queens of Egypt had quite a retinue of poets. There was in 
all the Greek world a brisk trade in books for educational and 
other purposes. Booksellers lived in the more literary cities, 
and kept a staff of slaves to copy the works most in demand, 
both for sale at home and for export ; but it will be under- 
stood that the idea of an author's selling the copyright of his 
work had not arisen. Hermodorus, the pupil of Plato, is said 
to have been the first to sell his own works, and he incurred a 
good deal of ridicule in consequence. 

In both fame and fortune sculptors and painters and other 
artists stood at the head of the professional classes. They not 
only took pupils on very high terms, but were able to dispose 
of their works for great sums to wealthy amateurs. Pliny 1 
gives a list of such prices. Apelles received twenty talents of 
gold for a picture of Alexander, and Aristides of Thebes a 
thousand minse for a picture of a battle with Persians. A 
hundred talents were paid for the Diadumenus of Polycleitus. 
Besides these great artists, there were a multitude of lesser 
ones engaged in cutting signets, engraving coin-dies, painting 
house-walls and pottery, and the like. In fact, the Greek 

1 xxxv. 36, 92, 99, 100. 


workman was always more or less of an artist. Musicians 

were paid to train choruses and to perform at entertainments. 



And after the time of Alexander there wandered about the 
Greek world troops of Dionysiac artists or actors, who passed 
from city to city giving representations for hire of the master- 
pieces of the Greek drama. Indeed, such troops existed in 
Attica and some other districts at an earlier time, for iEschines 
is greatly ridiculed by his contemporaries for having played 
second-rate parts in connection with such a troop. They did 
not stand very high in popular estimation. 



In the Homeric age commerce can scarcely be said to have 
existed among the Greeks. The state of society was such as 
scarcely to require it. The Homeric nobles produce on their 
own lands nearly all that they require for their rude mode of 
living. The only necessary which they had to go to the town 
and fetch seems to have been iron : * luxuries they imported, 
or rather bought, of the foreign merchants who visited their 
shores. The chief riches of the Homeric chiefs consisted in 
their flocks and herds and their slaves. These alone they 
could offer to merchants in exchange for wares. Hence prices 
are always by Homer reckoned in oxen ; and we are told 
that when a cargo of Lemnian wine reached the Greek camp 
before Troy, the chiefs purchased amphoras of it for cattle 
and hides. 2 The real resources of Greek lands, the purple- 
fisheries of Cythera, the copper-mines of Cyprus, the gold- 
mines of Thasos, seem to have been in the hands of Phoenicians ; 
and from the Phoenicians came most of the articles of manu- 
facture and luxury used by the Greeks of that age. Craters 
and other vessels of bronze, and clothes dyed with purple, the 
skilful Sidonians manufactured themselves ; ivory they brought 
from Egypt, and tin from Britain or from India. Slaves, in 
those days the most important article of commerce, they bought 
and sold everywhere. Their factories were to be found on all 
shores where any gain was to be made by trading, and their 
voyages reached from Britain to India. 

They did not, however, possess a monopoly of trade. Kuder 
peoples organised expeditions, partly for piratical purposes, and 

1 II. xxiii. 835. 2 II. viii. 474. 


partly for trade. The Taphians and Teleboans, 1 wlio are supposed 
to have lived in the neighbourhood of Corcyra, traded in metal 
and slaves with tin* opposite inhabitants of Italy and Sicily j and 
the Pha?acians, supposing them to have been a real and not a 
mythical people, seem to have possessed an extensive and lucrative 
trade. The Lemnians exported their wine in their own ships, 
and the Cretans were celebrated as bold sailors and organisers 
of piratical expeditions as far as the coasts of Africa. 2 In the 
traditions of the Argonautic expedition we may see proof that 
even the Aehseans did not shrink from long and venturesome 
expeditions, though they had as yet small idea of trading; 
rather they endeavoured to surprise and sack the cities of 
richer peoples and to bring home wealth and honour. The 
gold, which we know to have been no rarity in some parts of 
Greece in Homeric times, must have either been thus acquired 
or brought over the sea by wealthy Phoenicians or Lydians. 

It was probably the pressure of population which caused 
the (lurks about the eighth century before our era to turn 
their attention to the spreading of colonies over the shores of 
tin 1 Mediterranean, and, as a consequence, to commerce. We 
may call this a consequence, because in most cases communication 
was kept up between the mother-city and the colony ; the latter, 
finding itself in the midst of a new set of surroundings and 
productions, acquired new wants and new tastes, and then com- 
municated these wants and tastes to its parent, together with the 
materials for their satisfaction. Thus a lively trade between 
old and new Greek cities arose throughout the Levant; and 
the Greek traders, by a process which we can but rarely trace 
in history, gradually ousted the Phoenicians from nearly all 
their factories and trading stations, inheriting their traditions 
and their relations to the barbarous tribes of the interior. For 
the western trade Corinth was the most important city. The 
incomparable position of this city, the Acropolis of which is 
placed on a lofty rock commanding both the eastern and western 
>f ( rreece, gave it marvellous advantages. No trireme could 
he dragged across the isthmus which divided the two seas with- 
out pei-mission of the Corinthians; and as the Greeks dreaded 
the open sea of Cape Malea, they eagerly sought such permission. 
By the colonics of Corcyra ami Dyrrhachium, Corinth com- 
manded the Adriatic Sea, and pushing on, founded mighty cities 
in [taly and Sicily, including Syracuse itself. Scarcely less 
active in the same region were the people of Chalcis in Eubcea, 

2 Od. xiv. 245. 


who founded Naxus and Catana in Sicily. On the coast of 
Macedonia a whole district was settled by these same Chalcidians, 
and received its name from them. Miletus took as a special 
province the Euxine Sea and studded its shores with flourishing 
towns. Greek settlers occupied the coasts of Cyprus, and even 
the distant Libya received a colony in Cyrene. In the time of 
the Persian wars, the people of Phocaea sailed as far as Massilia 
and settled there. Before the Persians conquered Egypt the 
Greeks had settled in large numbers at Naucratis on the Nile, 
and had in their hands much of the trade of that rich country. 

The history of Greek commerce may be most aptly divided into 
three periods. The first comprises the time when no Greek 
city was specially pre-eminent above the rest, although Corinth 
in the west and Miletus in the east took usually the lead. 
The second period begins with the fall of Miletus and with the 
sudden expansion of Athenian commerce, the Athenians in- 
heriting Milesian supremacy in the Euxine and forming a strict 
commercial confederacy in the Levant. This period begins 
with the Persian Avars and ends with the taking of Athens by 
Lysander. The third period includes the rise and activity of 
the city of Rhodes, which was founded about B.C. 408, and 
almost immediately became a centre of Greek commerce, con- 
tinuing to be wealthy and flourishing until the Romans were 
supreme in all parts of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Taking Athens, /Egina, and Corinth as the centre, we find 
radiating from it four principal courses of trade. The first led 
in a north-easterly direction past the coasts of Macedon and 
Thrace, through the Bosphorus into the Euxine Sea. This 
line of trade was perhaps to the Greeks the most important of 
all, and in every age the city that had most share in it attained 
a preponderant commercial position. The shores of Macedon, 
Thrace, Pontus, and Bithynia, were to the Greeks what the 
wide plains of Russia and America are to ourselves. Thence 
came their supply of food and the raw materials of manufacture. 
In ancient, as in modern days, the plains of Southern Russia 
produced an enormous harvest of corn, and fed innumerable 
herds of oxen, which supplied the Greek tanners with hides. 
At the mouth of the Borysthenes and in the Propontis were 
some of the most productive fisheries known to the Greeks, 
supplying them with immense quantities of salt fish, which, 
with bread, was the staple of their food. The vast forests of 
Macedon and the Danube valley furnished an inexhaustible 
supply of timber for house and ship building, while even at 
that period Greece was poor in forest ; as well as tar and char- 


coal. Flax and hemp also came largely from the Euxinc. The 
great bulk of these products the Greek colonists did not pro- 
duce on their own lands, but procured by barter from the bar- 
barous tribes of the interior. The wandering tribes of Scythians, 
who dwelt on the northern shores of the sea, learned to culti- 
vate corn for export and to breed cattle; and bringing these 
to the (J reeks, obtained in return oil and bronzes, and more 
especially wine, which was very necessary to their enjoyment, 
and yet could not be grown so far north. Their kings were 
generally on good terms with the Hellenic colonists; and in 
our own day the tombs of these chiefs have been in many cases 
opened, and found to contain elegant pottery, jewellery, and 
ornaments, which exhibit Greek art almost at its best. The 
influence of Athens in particular is very clear in these elegant 
luxuries ; a fact which reminds us that at Athens the public 
police force consisted of slaves imported from Scythia, the 


Tic second great line of trade was that of which at succes- 
sive periods Delos and Rhodes were the emporia, and which 
led from Hellas past Rhodes and Cyprus along the coast of 
Phoenicia to Egypt. This route was the more important because 
along it came the products of the far East, of India, and Arabia, 
ami Babylon. Before the foundation of Alexandria, the great 
cities of Phoenicia retained the commerce of Farther Asia almost 
entirely in their own hands, but at a later period it was more 
widely spread, and shared by Antioch on the north and Alex- 
andria on the south. Babylon furnished the Greeks with 
carpets and other stud's, India with precious stones, silk, and 
ivory, Arabia with frankincense and various spices. The valley 
of the Nile exported both in later Greek and Roman times 
immense quantities of corn, as well as writing-paper and linen 
made of the papyrus plant, ivory, and porcelain. Phoenicia 
supplied the Greeks with fewer and fewer articles as their own 
lives developed; but cloth of purple, alabaster flasks of 
ointment, and fragrant woods, seem to have been exported 
through Tyre and Sidon until Roman times. Cyprus furnished 
lot only the besl copper known to the ancients, but in addition 
manufactured cloth of both liner and coarser texture. Cyrene, 
which could be reached either through Egypt or by way of 
Crete, supplied the whole world with silphiuiu, an article very 
much used in ancient medicine, and found nowhere hut in the 
Cyrenaic district. The people of Peloponnesus sailed to both 
Cyrene and Egypt by way of Crete. 

The third line of trade, which was always in the hands of 


Corinth and her colonies, started from that great commercial 
metropolis, and led through the Corinthian gulf, past the coasts 
of Acarnania and Epirus to the various ports on both sides of 
the Adriatic Sea. Although the Adriatic was reckoned a very 
dangerous sea, both on account of its frequent storms and 
because of the hardihood of the Illyrian pirates, yet it produced 
great gain to the merchants who ventured on it. They ex- 
changed Greek wine and manufactured goods for the produce 
of agriculture and grazing offered them by the farmers of the 
Epirote and Italian coasts. On the Italian side the harbours 
of Adria and Ancona lay open, and offered access to the peoples 
of Eastern Italy. 

More celebrated and frequented was the fourth line of trade, 
which led either from the Corinthian Gulf or the promontory 
of Malea across to Sicily, and through the Straits of Messina to 
the western coasts of Italy, to Gaul and Spain. As far to the 
north as CumsB this route passed a continuous succession of 
Greek colonies, and even in Gaul and Spain Massilia and 
Emporia? stood ready to harbour the Greek merchants, and to 
give them facilities for obtaining the produce of the interior. 
Corn and cheese were obtained from Sicily, wood from the 
forests of Southern Italy. Gaul supplied slaves, and the mer- 
chants who were so venturesome as to penetrate to Spain 
reaped a rich reward in the shape of gold, with which Spain at 
that time abounded. But the jealousy of Carthaginians and 
Etruscans prevented the commerce of the Greeks from ever 
spreading in force to the west and north of Cumse. To Italy 
and Sicily the Greeks of Hellas brought in return for the pro- 
ducts of the soil wine, pottery, and articles of manufacture. 

These four routes were the chief lines by which the riches 
of the barbarians flowed into Greece. Of course, among the 
great Greek cities themselves, scattered over the coasts of Asia 
Minor, Sicily, and Italy, and the mainland of Hellas, there was 
constant intercourse and a continual exchange of goods, for 
particular classes of which special cities and districts were 
famous. Thus Chios exported the finest wine, as well as 
Cnidus and Thasos ; Corinth supplied the Greek world tfith 
articles of bronze ; Athens with pottery and with silver from 
the Laurian mines, with oil, honey, and figs ; Thessaly and 
Elis with horses ; Arcadia with asses ; Sparta and Epirus with 
dogs ; Boeotia with eels from the Copaic lake ; the district 
about Mons Pangseus with gold and with roses. The internal 
trade of the Peloponnese was mainly in the hands of astute 
natives of iEgina, who travelled as pedlars over the country, 


carrying with them wares adapted to the needs of the hardy 
peasants of the hills. 

Plato in the Politicus 1 distinguishes two classes of dealers. 
The first consists of those who sell only the goods they them- 
selves produce (avroircSAai). The second consists of those who 
buy in order to sell again at a profit. In the latter class 
are included both shopkeepers or hucksters (KownjAoi), whose 
business is retail, and merchants 8 (iinropol) who deal whole- 
sale between market and market, or city and city. 

We are told that among the Locrians 3 the second and third 
of these classes were wanting ; that the husbandmen sold their 
products one by one to the consumer and not in the mass to 
dealers. Such a state of things could exist only in a very 
simple society; and among the Greeks generally the two 
.lasses of hucksters and merchants were numerous and clearly 
distinguished one from the other. 

In poor and mountainous or barren districts, such as Arcadia, 
the hucksters usually moved from place to place carrying with 
them a pack of goods for sale. But wherever the Greek popu- 
lation gravitated, as it normally did, into cities, these petty 
dealers did not acquire wandering habits, but remained attached 
to a certain spot in the market-place. Here their booths stood 
side by side with the factories of those who made articles for 
sale, sandal-makers, for instance, or wreath-makers. Among the 
most numerous classes of them were dealers in wine, oil, and 
fish. Sometimes covered halls were erected in order to contain 
a certain class of them, halls which thenceforth became the 
markets for a particular class of goods, the wine-market, for 
instance, or the fish-market. In large cities there would be 
found in the market-place a series of detached halls of this 
character, near together but disconnected. Even where every- 
thing was sold in the open Agora, dealers in the same commodi- 
ties would naturally gravitate to the same quarter of it, forming 
what were termed kvkXoi for the sale of such and such goods. 
The Agoraswere not always in the cities; sometimes they were 
situated on a convenient spot on the boundaries of two or more 
states, to be used in common by them; sometimes they were 
in the neighbourhood of celebrated temples, which attracted 
crowds of votaries. 

Of course these hucksters employed all their art to attract 
customers. A large or public sale would be announced before- 
hand by the town-criers, but ordinary dealers probably trusted 

1 1'nlit. 260 c. - Repub. 371. 3 Heracleid. Polit. 30. 


to the lusty use of their lungs for attracting attention. The 
voices of the sellers proclaiming their wares, and of the buyers 
chaffering and trying to beat down the price, must have mingled 
in a noise like that of Babel. Diphilus 1 mentions a wine- 
seller as going about with a skin of wine under his arm, and 
offering samples (Seiy/xaTa) to probable buyers. Such samples 
were sometimes hawked out of the market, up and down the 
streets, and those who carried them would loudly cry their 

Not all times were equally devoted to marketing. Special 
days were set apart in many cities for fairs, the first of the 
month being a favourite time. On the occasion of all great 
festivals, and more especially of the Olympic, Nemean, and 
Pythian games, the assembly offered an irresistible opportunity 
to petty dealers of all sorts, who turned the place of meeting 
into a great fair, and provided the visitors with plenty to 
carry away in memory of the feast. The meeting of the 
Amphictionic council, the annual assemblies of the Achseans 
and iEtolians, and all other such gatherings were used in the 
same way. Finally, armies on the march were accompanied 
by crowds of hucksters ready to provide the soldiers with 
the necessaries of a campaign in return for the booty they 
might acquire, and especially to buy up the numerous enemies 
who should be captured and reduced to a condition of slavery. 
In passing through a friendly country, the army would halt 
in the neighbourhood of a city, and the inhabitants would 
come out and form a temporary Agora without the walls, where 
the soldiers could buy what they required. Hence generals 
in the field were obliged to constantly issue a supply of money, 
and in a large number of the coins which have come down 
to us we find traces of a military origin. 

With regard to the transactions of merchants Ave get much 
information from the Attic orators, which is well summed 
up by Biichsenschutz, from whose work 2 the following is an 
extract. " The merchant embarks certain goods for a place 
where he is sure of disposing of them, or at least has reason- 
able expectations of doing so ; and either makes the journey 
on board the ship, or commits the goods to a trustworthy 
person whom he sends with them. As he thus runs the risk 
of finding under certain circumstances at the destination no 
market for his goods, he is in that case compelled to repair 
to another port which offers better prospects, unless on the 

1 Apud Athen. 499. 2 Besitz unci Emverb, p. 459. 


journey he has already received news of the altered circum- 
stances ami changed his plan in accordance with them. It is 

obvious that the merchants must have sought means of gain- 
ing news as to favourable or unfavourable conditions in the 
markets to which they intended to send their wares, as well 
as to the prices of the goods they intended to purchase in 
exchange. In the speech against Dionysodorus, Demosthenes 
gives a dear outline of the way in which a company of corn 
merchants keep themselves informed by correspondence of the 
current prices of corn, in order thence to determine whither 
to send their cargoes from Egypt For the forwarding of such 
news, as well as for the buying and selling of goods, merchants 
kept agents at important places. For instance, we find it 
stated that a merchant resident at Athens sends word to a 
partner at Rhodes, giving him directions as to a corn-ship on 
her way from Egypt which is to call at Rhodes ; a merchant 
of Heraclea has an associate at Scyros, who makes thence 
business trips ; in another case the son and the partner of a 
merchant resident at Athens pass the winter at the Bosphorus, 
probably with a stock of goods or to make purchases ; at least 
it is stated that they were commissioned to receive payments." 

The Greek merchant would not be able, as a rule, to dis- 
pose of his whole cargo to one purchaser, but would sell it 
by portions to the various retail dealers. Sometimes indeed a 
speculator would try to buy up all of a particular commodity, 
such as corn or olives, which was in the market, in order to 
gain tie- control of the supply of that commodity and raise 
tie- price against the consumers. No behaviour was so un- 
popular in antiquity as this, and those who attempted it 
were very often victims of the general indignation. But there 
was n<»t, as among us, a class 01 general dealers or speculators 
intervening between merchant and shopkeeper. 

On receiving payment for his goods in money, the merchant 
might sometimes sail home with it. This, however, took place 
seldom, partly because the money current at one seaport was 
usually tot. taken at another, except at a considerable reduction, 
every city having its own types and monetary standard. There 
were certain kinds of coin which had a more general circulation, 
as the silver coin of Athens and afterwards that of Alexander 
the Great in the Levant, the money of Corinth in Sicily ami 
on the Adriatic, and the gold coins of Philip in Central Europe. 
Bui usually the money received by merchants had to be either 
expended by them in the Bame or a neighbouring port, or else 
taken away and melted down in order to pass as bullion. 


Therefore, after disposing of his cargo, the merchant would 
search about for a new stock of goods such as he might judge 
to be in demand at his native city or elsewhere ; and thus the 
process already described would be repeated. It will be evident 
from this description that merchants among the Greeks could 
not usually confine themselves to dealing in one or two classes 
of goods, but must be ready to purchase whatever was cheap. 
There were, perhaps, exceptions in case of dealers who attended 
specially to classes of goods in demand everywhere, such as 
eorn and slaves. Transactions among Greeks took place for 
money, but, in dealing with the barbarians, the Greeks retained 
barter at all periods of their trade. 

That which produces the greatest differences between ancient 
and modern trade is the fact that in ancient times buying and 
selling took place not on credit but for cash. This makes the 
mechanism of ancient trade extremely simple. But it does not 
follow that a merchant must have then possessed a large trading 
capital. A large part of his working capital could be borrowed 
on the security of his goods. Of such transactions we must 
speak in the next chapter, which treats of credit and loans. 



As a large proportion of the wealth of many Greeks consisted 
in gold and silver money, they sought from the earliest times 
to turn it to account by lending it to those persons who could 
profitably employ it, and receiving interest in return. This 
lending was accompanied in various cities by various ceremonies, 
the chief object of which was to secure witnesses of the trans- 
action and to prevent the borrower from denying the loan. 
Sometimes the contract was made in the presence of a sort of 
notary appointed by the State ; more frequently it was arranged 
before witnesses summoned by the parties. At Athens the 
terms of the loan, the amount, rate of interest, and period were 
carefully stated in a document which was sealed by both parties 
and deposited in the custody of some trustworthy person. It 
is said that in the city of Cnossus l the borrower made a pre- 
tence of stealing the money lent him, in order that, if he did 

1 Plutarch, Qucest. Gr. 53. 


not repay it in time, the lender would have him in his power. 
A more usual precaution would be to require a person of re- 
spectability as surety for the repayment. As regards the goods 
which are the material security of a loan, Biichsenschiitz, 1 whose 
chapters on these subjects are admirable, remarks that they may 
be either handed bodily over to the lender of money, in which 
case they would by us be called pledged, or retained by the 
borrower, whose creditor acquired certain rights over them, a 
condition to which we give the name of mortgage. Furniture, 
slaves, or horses might be given in pledge ; lands, houses, or ships 
would usually be mortgaged. The nature of pledges is simple, 
and they need not occupy us further, if we only observe that 
he who lent money on a living pledge, such as a horse or slave, 
ran great risk of its dying, and of his security becoming thus 
worthless. Mortgages were more usual and of more importance. 
Money-lenders in Greece were of two classes, either private 
individuals who had to live on the interest of their property, 
and possessed that property in the form of money, or else 
Tpa7T€^LTat or dpyvpafioifioi, money-changers. Indeed, private 
persons usually intrusted these latter with spare capital, their 
professional habits and business abilities rendering them able to 
make better use of it than the owners could, while the money- 
changers gave good security to their creditors and allowed them 
a fair rate of interest. As in Greece every considerable city 
had its own coinage, money-changers must have had a very 
large stock of gold and silver ; and credit being absent, they 
would naturally constitute par excellence the class with money 
to lend. Further, their profession compelled them to live in the 
market-place at a spot known to all. Hence all in need of 
funds resorted to them, and they become bankers almost in our 
sense of the word. Some of them attained great wealth and 
world-wide credit. Thus Pasion 2 employed a capital of fifty 
talents, of which eleven belonged to his depositors. Merchants 
would without witnesses, such was his reputation for probity, 
deposit sums of money with him, which he at once entered in 
his books. On the credit of his name money could be pro- 
cured in any Greek town, and deeds of all classes were 
deposited with him for safe custody. It was customary for 
merchants to make payments one to another, when they could 
not meet, by leaving the sum with a t apezites, with orders to 
him to deliver it to the proper person who was also obliged, 
before receiving it, to prove his identity. 

1 Bcsitz und Erwcrb, p. 485. 2 Demosth. pro Phorm. 5. 


It was the trapezitce, then, who usually lent on mortgage 
(virodi'jKij). The security was sometimes a manufactory with 
slaves in it. A still better class of security was the lands and 
farming capital of the citizens. It was usual to set up on 
mortgaged lands an inscription on stone stating the name of 
the creditor and the amount due to him. In some states there 
seems to have been a less primitive arrangement in the shape 
of a register of mortgages kept by authority. In case of default 
of payment on the part of the owner of the land, the holder 
of the mortgage apparently had the right to occupy it, even 
although the value of the land exceeded the amount of the 
debt. It would hence appear that foreigners and metoeci, 
being incapable of holding land, could not lend on this sort of 
security, or, if they did so, must do without the customary 

To commerce the trapezitse were of the utmost importance, 
since without such aid as they afforded merchants could only 
have traded to the amount of their actual capital in coin. The 
ordinary course of proceeding was as follows : — A merchant, 
say at Athens, wishes to carry a cargo to the Euxine. He 
finds a trapezites willing to lend 8000 drachmas on the outward 
cargo on condition that he undertakes by written contract to 
make that cargo of the value of 12,000 drachmas. The rate of 
interest is fixed for the whole voyage at so much per cent. 
Either an agent of the trapezites sails with the ship, or else he 
appoints some person at a port on the Euxine to receive the 
money. When the cargo is sold on arriving at its destination, 
principal and interest are paid. If, on the other hand, the 
cargo is lost at sea, the trapezites loses his venture. Thus the 
system of borrowing on cargoes served, so far as the merchant 
was concerned, the purpose of insurance, besides increasing his 
available capital and so extending trade. The rate of interest 
was of course high and proportioned to the risks of the voyage, 
the course of which was carefully specified beforehand ; in the 
contract it was sometimes also stated that if the voyage were 
prolonged into the winter season the rate of interest should be 
higher. In the case we have supposed, our merchant, after 
disposing of his cargo on the Euxine, would find himself de- 
prived of means for the return voyage unless he could again 
find a lender. It Avas therefore far more usual for those who 
sailed from Greek ports to borrow for the double journey, out 
and home, and repay the loan to the original lender on their 
return. Unfortunately, Greek commercial honour never being 
very high, this course of proceeding gave opportunity for a 


great deal of dishonesty and fraud. Various means of self- 
defence were adopted by the lenders, such as sending an agent 
On hoard or requiring a surety who remained at home, but 
their chief reliance was on the strictness of the laws, which 
were very severe against those who attempted fraud, more 
especially at Athens. 

Sometimes capitalists, instead of lending on a cargo, would 
lend money on the ship herself. This was in most respects 
less risky, the value of a ship being easier to discover. Ac- 
cordinglv, while lenders would advance not more than two- 
thirds of the stated value of a cargo, which might easily suffer 
depreciation, we find that they would lend on a ship up to its 
full worth. But there was of course much risk of its being 
lost, a danger no doubt taken into view in fixing the rate of 

\Ye find certain cases in which states borrowed money like 
individuals, mortgaging their revenues or public buildings. 
But it is hard to sec how the creditors, in case of default, could 
have made good their claim against cities which boasted of 
complete independence. 

Interest (tokos) was reckoned among the Greeks in one of 
two ways, either by stating the number of drachmas to be paid 
per month for the use of each mina, 1 or by stating the proportion 
of the whole sum lent to be paid yearly or for the period of the 
loan. The rate of interest was of course higher than among us, 
twelve per cent, per annum being considered a very low rate, 
and instances occurring in which twenty-four per cent, was 
charged. At Athens interest was generally paid monthly, at 
the new moon. We find ten or twelve per cent, paid for a 
loan on a single voyage from Athens to the Bosphorus ; but 
we must remember that a part only of this amount represents 
interest on money ; the remainder was paid for risk. For, as 
already shown, if the ship were wrecked at sea, or captured by 
pirates, or otherwise lost, the capitalist who had lent money on 
her cargo was the chief sufferer, recovering no part of his 
venture. The rate of interest being thus high, we can under- 
stand how private persons in the great cities, possessing no 
lands but only capital in the shape of money, managed to live 
in comfort on the interest of it. 

Every reader of Homer will remember the fact, already 
stated in a previous chapter, that with him cattle are the 

1 As the mina contained ioo drachms, a drachm in the mina per month 
would be twelve per centum per annum. 


measure of value. The armour of Glaucus is said to have been 
worth a hundred oxen, and that of Diomedes nine oxen. 1 Homer 
does, however, in some places name xpvo-olo rdXavra. That 
these were bars of metal of very small value will appear from 
the fact that among the prizes proposed for the chariot-race 
in the 23rd book of the Iliad 2 two talents of gold are offered as 
the fourth prize only, while a brazen tripod is the third prize. 
But nowhere in Homer is it said that an article is worth so 
many talents of gold. And so the Greek writers on metrology 
naturally, though in all probability wrongly, assert that the term 
talent does not in Homer signify any fixed amount or weight in 
gold, but may imply a small bar of any size. They overlook 
the fact that Homer speaks in one place of a hemi-talent. 3 
Indeed, it is quite certain that in Homer's time, although coins 
were not yet in use, bars and rings of metal of fixed weight 
were current, and generally accepted, whether by weight or by 
tale, in all kinds of mercantile transactions. At Hissarlik, 
among the debris of a city of a date much earlier than that of 
Homer, Dr. Schliemann found bars of silver which Mr. Head 
has shown to be nearly of the weight of a third of the 
Babylonian silver mina. Small 6/3o\ot or wedges of silver were 
certainly the principal medium of exchange in Greece very long 
before the seventh century, and of these, six were reckoned as 
a fyaxpj or handful. Indeed, from very remote times the Baby- 
lonians and the Egyptians had formed for themselves systems 
of currency in metal bars, and had transmitted the custom to 
the nations of Asia Minor and Syria, with whom the Greeks were 
in constant contact. We cannot fix the date at which the custom 
spread to Greece also, but it must have been very early. And 
when bars of metal of fixed weight and fineness are in circula- 
tion, nothing is required to turn these into coins except the 
addition of an official stamp. 

It has long been disputed what people were the first to 
substitute in their currency coins proper, i.e., properly stamped 
lumps of metal, for the bars of metal of fixed weight which had 
preceded them. Modern opinion is inclined to the view that 
this discovery belongs to the Lydians. The first coins were 
made neither of gold nor silver, but of a yellow metal com- 
pounded of the two, and called electrum, which was found in 
large quantities in the beds of the Pactolus and other rivers of 

1 eKaTdfxj3oL evveafioiwv. II. vi. 236. 2 Line 269. 

3 Since this was written Mr. Ridge way has tried to show {Origin of 
Currency and Weight- Standards) that the Homeric talent was the equiva- 
lent of an ox, and in weight equal to the Daric (130 grains). 


Asia Minor. About the reign of Gygee it occurred to some 
wise man of the Lydian court to have small balls of electrum 
marked with the official stamp of a city <>r a temple to guarantee 
both its weight ami its quality. Miletus and other Greek cities 
of Asia adopted the plan from theii neighbours, and as early as 
the seventh and sixth centuries before our sera a considerable 
quantity of elect rum coins was circulating on the shores of the 
.Kgean and the Kuxine. Nevertheless, considering the obvious 
utility of coinage, it cannot be considered that it spread rapidly. 

Pheidon, king of Argos, is supposed to have been the first 
to issue money in Greece proper. This he struck in the island 
of /Kgina. The metal he used was silver, silver being the 
normal currency of Greece, as gold was of Asia, and copper of 
Italy. The type was the tortoise, the symbol of the Phoenician 
goddess of the moon and of trade, whom the Greeks identified 
with their own Aphrodite. The date of Pheidon is set down 
by Weissenborn as about b.c. 668; but it is hard to believe 
that any coins were issued in Greece at so early a period. 
There is qo trace of any Athenian coinage before the time of 
Solon ; for all Attic money is struck on the monetary standard 
introduced by him. Nor do most of the cities of Greece proper 
seem to have issued money until the time of the Persian wars. 

By that time Persia had a well-established currency, both in 
gold and silver. Croesus had introduced in Lydia a regular 
state coinage in these two metals in place of the irregularly- 
issued pieces of electrum which had preceded him; and Darius 
the son of Hystaspes, in his general reform of the Persian 
Empire, followed the example of Croesus, adopting alike his 
metals and his standards of weights. The Persian gold Darics, 
as they were called from their founder (<rrar?]p^ AapctKoi), 1 or 
to^otui, as they were called from their stamp or device, played 
a very important part throughout Greek history, being used 
largely for subsidies or bribery by the Great King and his 

In Macedon and among the tribes of the Thracian Pangseum 
'Mining was in use as early as B.C. 500. The invention reached 
the Greek cities of Italy and Sicily, which were at this time 
at least as forward as the cities of Greece proper in all appli- 
ances of civilisation, apparently during the latter half of the 
sixth century. Rome is not supposed to have issued money 
before the time of the Decemvirs. In all parts the early coins 

1 Some writers now deny any connection between the Daric and Darius. 
See Head, Historin Xumurum, p. 698. 


were struck in very rude fashion. An anvil was made with 
one or two irregular square or oblong projections. On these 
was laid a bean-shaped piece of metal. A punch of iron or 
bronze was then brought, on the end of which was cut in 
intaglio the device which the coin was to bear. Being struck 
between this punch and the projections of the anvil, the coin 
bore on the obverse the device which is called its type, on the 
reverse a rude incuse, square or oblong. A reverse type was 
used at few cities before the fifth century. 1 

The coinage of Greece forms a wonderful commentary on the 
free and liberty-loving character of its inhabitants. ~No city 
which was autonomous seems to have been too small to issue 
coin with its own types and inscriptions. In the island of Ceos 
there were at least three cities which issued coin ; in the island 
of Amorgos, at least three. The island of Sicily included over 
fifty mint-cities, among which some, such as Piacus, Nacona, 
and Hipana, are all but unknown to every one but the numis- 
matist. And each city struck on the standard of weight which 
best suited its markets and its monetary alliances. Hence the 
prodigious abundance of Greek coins, differing in type, legend, 
and weight one from another, which furnishes indeed to tjie 
modern student an immense quantity of valuable information 
in every branch of archaeology, but which must have been very 
confusing and detrimental to commerce at the time. The usual 
denominations of gold and silver coin in use in Greece were 
the tetradrachm and didrachm, equal respectively to four and 
two drachms, the drachm (S/aa^pj), the hemidrachm, the diobol, 
the obol, which was the sixth of the drachm, and the hemiobol. 
Pieces of lower value than the hemiobol were usually struck 
in copper, after copper coin was introduced, which took place 
about B.C. 400. At Athens there were eight x a ^ K0 ^ i n the 

It has been ably maintained by Professor Curtius that the 
origin of coins was religious. He considers that the need of a 
currency became most clear and strong at the religious festivals 
which took place at fixed periods in connection with the great 
temples of antiquity. The offerings of the people on such 
occasions would take the form of small bars or ingots of gold 
or silver, and these, on being accumulated in the temple, would 
sometimes be stamped with the mark of the deity, the lyre for 
Apollo, the tortoise for Aphrodite, the owl for Athena. Thus 

1 For more details of the process of coining, see Types of Greek Coins, 
chap. 3. 


the earliest coins are everywhere ingots thus marked with the 
symbols and not the heads or figures of deities. In fact, it is 
certain that in early times coins were closely connected with 
the deities and their festivals. The coins of Ephesus are 
closely connected with the temple of Artemis ; those of Miletus 
with the temple of Apollo at Didyma. The coins of Elis bear 
every mark of a close relation to the Olympic festival. The 
Roman mint was the temple of Juno Moneta. 

No doubt iii later times coinage became a political rather 
than a religious institution. Darius of Persia claimed the 
minting of gold as his exclusive prerogative, and allowed no 
rival issue to his Daries to appear in Asia. Hence throughout 
aiuit-nt and early mediaeval history, the issue of gold coin was 
the sign of a claim to complete autonomy. The Persian satraps 
were, however, allowed to issue silver, more especially when 
they weTe employed on military expeditions, and needed money 
to pay their troops. Also the Greek cities of Asia Minor were 
allowed, during a great part of their history, to issue electrum 
and silver money of their own. Meantime everywhere in 
< rreece the state was stepping into the place of the temple as 
the issuer of coin. Hence throughout the flourishing period of 
Greek history the most usual inscription on the money is the 
name of the state which issued it, or rather the people of that 
state. Thus the coins of Syracuse are regularly inscribed 
2YPAK02IGN, the coins of Athens AGE for AGHNAIflN, 
and so forth. A king, or even a despot, would introduce his 
name in place of this ethnic. Thus the coins of Alexander I. 
and III. of Macedon, and those of Alexander of Pherse, are 
alike inscribed AAE^ANAPOY. Until the time of Philip of 
Macedon, we comparatively seldom find any other inscription 
than those of these two classes. 

The types or devices of early Greek coins are almost exclu- 
sively religious. I have already stated that the earliest money 
bore a mere indentation on the reverse, and on the obverse the 
symbol of some deity. The god or goddess selected for this 
honour was often the protecting divinity of the mint-city. The 
symbol was frequently an animal. Thus, the wolf of Apollo 
is impressed on the early coins of Argos, the owl of Pallas on 
those of Athens, Pegasus on those of Corinth, and so forth. In 
later times, that is to say early in the fifth century, this symbol 
is in most coinages transferred to the reverse of the coin, while 
the obverse is reserved for the effigy of the deity to whom the 
symbol belongs. This is the most general rule, but the ex- 
ceptions are vrrv numerous. In fact, in every district of Greece 



the coinage has a distinct character. In Sicily it is predomi- 
nantly agonistic, the racing chariot and the racehorse marking 
most of the issues ; in Cyrene it appears more commercial, 
bearing a figure of the silphium-plant, the great object of 
export. Yet even in these cases there is probably a close con- 
nection with religious cult. The general rule is that the 
dominant religion of a district or city dominates also its coin. 
Thus, the coins of Mace don are full of the symbols of Ares 
and Dionysus, Herakles and Dionysus reign supreme in the 
coinage of Thebes, Artemis in that of Ephesus. Even where 
a religious reference may not be at first sight evident, it reveals 
itself on closer study. The shield at Thebes belongs not to the 
Thebans but to Herakles or Athena, the helmet in Macedon 
not to the Macedonians but to Ares. The ear of corn at 
Metapontum does not primarily refer to the plenteous harvests 
of the place, but belongs to the worship of Demeter ; the wine- 
cup at Naxos does not simply refer to the goodness of Naxian 
wine, but shows that the island specially worshipped Dionysus. 
Hence, the value of Greek coins in informing us as to the 
local cults of various cities and districts. For the Artemis 
of Ephesus was not the same as the Artemis of Crete, or of 
Stymphalus, nor the Apollo of Delphi the same as the Ajx)llo 
of Mytilene or of Lycia. 

Towards the end of the fifth century there begin to appear 
on the coins of most cities small figures in the field beside and 
in subordination to the types. These are called in technical 
numismatic language symbols. Thus at Metapontum, for 
instance, beside the type, which is an ear of corn, we find on 
various coins as symbols an owl, a mouse, a locust, a dove, &c. 
It is supposed that these subordinate devices were taken from 
the private signet of the magistrate who was responsible for the 
issue of the coin. It is well known that the ancients used the 
impression of their signet rather than the writing of their name 
to authenticate deeds. In the same way, when they were 
monetary magistrates, they sealed, as it were, the coin, to 
indicate its date, and to show who was answerable for its 
weight and fineness. At a somewhat later period, that is to 
say during the course of the fourth century, either in addition 
to or in place of the symbol, there was introduced the name or 
the initials of the monetary magistrate, sometimes of two or 
three magistrates of various grades. 

In the time of Alexander the Great the great changes which 
came over Greek political and social life affected also the coin. 
Henceforth, although a large number of cities preserved a 


partial autonomy and went on issuing coins stamped with their 
ancient types, the bulk of the Greek coinage ceases to be civic 
and bee* tines regal ; that is to say, it bears both the name and 
the portrait of some one of the kings of Macedon, Syria, or 
Egypt, and has his family type on the reverse of it. The 
type of the mint-city, if it appear at all, sinks into the sub- 
ordinate position of an accessory symbol. So accurately does 
the coinage reflect the political state of Greece. Dionysius of 
Syracuse dared not put either his name or his portrait on coins, 
nor did .Jason of Pherae ; Alexander of Pherae and Philip of 
Macedon marked their coin with their name, but not with their 
portraits. Even Alexander abstained from putting his head on 
his numerous coins, leaving that honour to Pallas and Heracles, 
his special guardian deities. But the Diadochi or successors 
of Alexander, beginning by placing their master's effigy in the 
character of Heracles on their coin, soon proceeded to substitute 
their own heads as of earthly gods, and banished the deities of 
< Hympus to the reverse of their money. Henceforward, until 
the fall of the Roman Empire, coins present to us an admirable 
gallery of portraits, in which are included not only kings and 
emperors, but also their wives and a number of men illustrious 
in various ways. Coins thus become in a great degree the key 
to ancient iconography. 

Aitei the Roman conquest the issue of gold money was pro- 
hibited to all ( rreek cities, and the minting of silver was allowed 
but to few, and under severe restrictions. But from the time 
of Mark Antony to that of Aurelian, a host of Greek and 
Hellenistic cities issued a constant succession of copper coin. 
Tl lis had little intrinsic value, and could have been used only 
tor very small payments, but its variety is infinite, and the 
amount of material which it furnishes to the archaeologist 
enormous. The pieces being intended only for circulation 
within the walls of a single city, are distinguished by types and 
inscriptions of an extremely local character. 





The primitive Aryans were a nomad people, who were kept 
together in their wanderings by the tie of blood relation- 
ship. The members of a family naturally held together. 
Several families related to each other formed a clan ; several 
clans, a tribe. The organisation of the family was in all proba- 
bility patriarchal, and included grandfather, father, and children. 
To the tie of blood-relationship we may perhaps add that of 
ancestor- worship : the family was a religious organisation, as 
all its members united in the same worship, which was con- 
ducted by the house-father. In the same way, the clan beino- 
descended from a common ancestor, had a common worship ; 
and the head-man of the clan stood in the same relation to it 
as the house-father to the family. In war, the fighting men 
of each family fought side by side, and the various families of 
a clan took their orders from the clan-leader or war-king, who 
would be elected to his post on the ground of personal fitness. 
In peace, custom was king of all, in the phrase of Herodotus ; 
the head of a family laid down the custom for his family and 
enforced it with patria potestas. The relations between families 
were also regulated by custom, and the custom was expounded 
by the house-fathers assembled in council. Marriage by pur- 
chase (in place of capture) was becoming customary, as was also 
the offering and accepting of wer-geld or money compensa- 
tion for the slaying of a man. 

Whether Homer was a contemporary of the Mycenaean 
civilisation which the discoveries of Schliemann have since 
revealed to us, or whether the Homeric age was separated 
from the Mycenaean period by the Doric invasion, in either 


case there was an interval between the entrance of the 
Aryans into Greece and the age of Homer, which was great, 
probably, if measured merely 1>y the lapse of time, and very 
great when considered with reference to what occurred during 
it. The change from pastoral to agricultural life, which had 
commenced indeed before the Aryans entered Greece, was com- 
pleted, and the social and industrial habits of the family were 
consequently revolutionised. Again, the Greeks, who at the 
commencement of this interval had been in the Stone Age, by 
the end of it had passed through the Bronze Age and were 
witnessing the beginning of the Iron Age; that is to say, their 
industrial organisation and their material development had 
made an advance owing to the discovery of metals and famili- 
arity with their use, which was probably greater than any that 
had ever been made before, except that which followed on the 
discovery and use of fire. Above all, the transition had been 
made from the nomad mode of life to the habits of a settled 
population, and the germs of political power, which were pre- 
viously diffused probably throughout the tribe, were now tending 
to become concentrated in towns. 

Tin- advance in political development that the Homeric 
Greeks had made on the family and tribal system of the 
• •aiiiest times is considerable. Nothing can give us more 
striking evidence of the advance which even the Greeks 
themselves felt that they had made than the fact that they 
had left the earlier stage so far behind as to conceive that 
it was (inly possible among savage races whose very existence 
was mythical. The Cyclopes, according to Homer (Od. 9, 112), 
11 Have neither gatherings for council nor ancient customs, but 
they dwell on the peaks of lofty mountains, in hollow caves, 
and each determines custom for his own wives and children, 
and they reek not of one another." From this we must not 
inter either that gatherings were wholly unknown to the earliest 
( * reeks, or that in Homeric times the power of the house-father 
over his own household had diminished. 1 The value of the 
passage is that it shows the supreme importance which the 
Greeks had come to put upon the gatherings of free men for 
the purpose of settling all matters affecting the community in 
collective capacity. Above all, the passage shows us how 
such matters were settled : they were — according to the popular 
theory -not settled by the rule of might, or by the caprice of 

1 Fanta, St. in <irr. 11. uml Od. 86, draws the wrong inference. 
Even down to historical Greek times no member of a family had any 
legal standing as against the house-father. 


any individual or any body of persons — even of the majority — 
but by " ancient customs " (#€/xio-t€s). Not every man was com- 
petent to determine or pronounce what the custom might be in 
any given case, or at least not every man was listened to. The 
claims to a right to expound the custom were the natural 
claims of age and good birth. The persons thus qualified 
are accordingly spoken of as "elders" (yepovres) or "kings" 
(pao-ikrjes), or "ministers of justice" (StKacnroXoi) ; and they 
are conceived as possessing or inheriting the knowledge of the 
customs. Law, it is to be observed — the enactment or pro- 
hibition, laid down and enforced by the state, of certain classes 
of actions — is unknown to Homer, and only came into being 
later, either when the concentration of the authority of the 
state brought to the state the duty of enforcing custom, which 
thus became law ; or when the abuse, by the possessors, of ex- 
clusive knowledge of the custom, compelled the people to 
demand that it should be published and enforced without par- 
tiality and without interpolations. 

The disputes which arise in a society so primitive as that 
of Homeric times still was are, perforce, like society itself 
in that stage, simple. The conditions of life are too easy to 
either necessitate or allow the existence of a criminal class. 
The only disputes were such as naturally rise among neigh- 
bours, for in a small community all the members are neighbours 
and known to each other. These disputes might, and in some 
cases did, proceed to blows and end in homicide or murder. 
Blows did not lead to " proceedings " in the legal s6nse : 
Thersites having been thrashed by Odysseus has no action for 
assault and battery open to him. With murder the case was 
somewhat different : there was indeed no state power to which 
the relatives of the deceased could appeal for redress, much 
less was there any state power which of its own motion under- 
took to apprehend and punish the murderer. Murder was no 
offence against the law of the state, for there was no law. 
But in Homeric times a feeling was gathering that murder 
was an offence against the members of the community in their 
collective capacity. 1 This feeling operated strongly in support- 

1 We may indeed safely generalise this proposition, and say that all 
wrong doing which was brought before the Agora or assembled village 
was regarded vaguely as an offence against the community — at least in so 
far as the moral support of the community was the only force of a public 
nature that could be invoked to give effect to custom. And this is the 
reason why in the Agora scene of the shield the disputants address them- 
selves quite as much to the crowd of their fellow- villagers as to the 
gerontes. The latter indeed pronounced the custom, but on the attitude 


ing the relatives of the murdered man, whether they demanded 
blood or were content to accept money in compensation. In 
the majority of cases there was probably no possibility of 
doubting who was the murderer. Where the matter was not 
one of public notoriety, it sufficed if a certain number of the 
kinsmen of the murdered man testified in the Agora as to the 
identity of the murderer. 1 If, after that, the family of the 
murderer were not content to pay the wer-geld, the amount of 
which we may conjecture was settled in the Agora, or " gather- 
ing for council," in accordance with the themistes on the sub- 
ject, the murderer generally found it expedient to flee into a 
far country ; for if he remained he would assuredly be killed 
in revenge, to the satisfaction and with the approval of the 
community in general. There was indeed another course which 
the murderer could pursue : to promise the wer-geld, and not 
keep his engagement. It is a commentary on the honesty of 
the Homeric Greek that Homer, wishing to select a scene in 
the Agora typical of the kind of business brought most fre- 
quently before the " elders " or gerontes when engaged as 
SiKaa-TToXoi, chooses precisely a case in which one man declares 
that he has paid all the wer-geld and the other asserts that he 
has received nothing. 2 The whole village is gathered together 
to hear the dispute. Those members who are distinguished by 
age or position are admitted to sit on the white stones which 
form a ring round the Agora. The rest of the men crowd 

of the former depended the amount of submission which would be given 
to it. 

It is important to notice also, that even if there be no trace in Homer of 
the belief of a later age that guilt could be cleansed away by religious 
ceremonies and purifications, the first step to that belief has already been 
made : guilt renders a man liable to punishment from heaven, especially in 
cases where there is no possibility of punishment from man. Murder brought 
vengeance from the murdered man's kin, if the murderer and the mur- 
dered were of different families ; from the house-father if they were of the 
same family. But if the house-father were murdered by one of his own 
family, then the Erinyes of the father were to be dreaded. If the head of 
the family were murdered by his younger brother (being a member of the 
joint undivided family), then the elder brother had the Erinyes to avenge 

1 This does not appear from Homer. But Aristotle, Pol. ii. 5, men- 
tions, and, not understanding it, ridicules the practice. There may be, 
however, little hesitation in accepting the existence of this practice at 
Cyme as a survival from a state of things at least as ancient as Homer. 

2 Dr. Leaf, however, ad loc. cit., points out that the words may equally 
well mean that one prayed to be allowed to pay the wer-geld (to avoid 
exile or reprisals), and the other refused to accept the money, and so 
forego his revenge. 


round and are kept back with difficulty by the heralds. The 
gerontes having heard both sides (who address themselves quite 
as much to those outside the ring as to those inside it), take 
the sceptre, the possession of which indicates that the speaker 
is " in possession of the House," 1 one after another, and give 
each his opinion on the matter. The meaning of the rest of 
the passage, which is disputed, will be discussed in the next 
paragraph. Here it is enough to note, that as there is in 
Homer no state power to afford redress in case of murder, so 
in civil cases there is no power which a creditor, for instance, 
can set in motion to compel payment. In the case just quoted 
from Homer, the debtor is not " haled " into the Agora by his 
creditor ; they are both " eager " to appear. 

The dispute about the payment of wer-geld described in 
the previous paragraph is one of the scenes depicted on the 
marvellous shield made by Hephaestus for Achilles (II. xviii. 
497-508). The principal difficulty is raised by the last lines 
of the passage : "in their midst lay two talents of gold to give 
to the man who should speak amongst them most righteously." 
In the grammar of the Greek there is nothing to show whether 
it is one of the two disputants or one of the gerontes who is 
to receive the money deposited. The usage of the original 
expression " to speak most righteously " is such that it is 
equally applicable to a man pleading his own cause and to 
one giving his verdict on a suit (cf. xxiii. 579). The passage, 
therefore, as far as the language is concerned, may mean that 
the two talents are intended either for one of the gerontes or 
for the successful disputant. In support of the former view 
it may be argued that the run of the passage seems to show 
that one of the gerontes is intended, for the lines quoted 
(507-508) follow immediately on the description of the way in 
which the gerontes rise and speak one after the other, while 
it is so long since the two disputants have been mentioned 
(501), that it is hard to imagine them referred to. Further, 
we know generally that offerings were made to the gerontes 
or " kings ; " and from Hesiod we know in particular that 
offerings were made to the " kings " as a compensation for 
their expenditure of time, and as an encouragement to them 
to render their services— an encouragement to which the "gift- 
devouring kings" (W. and D. 38) were perfectly susceptible. 
In Roman law, too, each litigant deposited a sum of money 

1 11. xxiii. 568. ip 5' &pa Krjpvtj xe~q <■ <TKrjwTpov ZdyKe, a-aoirrjaai re KeXevaev 


(sacramentum), and the unsuccessful suitor forfeited his deposit 
to the praitor, who took it as compensation for his time and 
trouble. In Homeric Greece there was not one prcetor, but 
several gerontes to decide the suit ; and we must conjecture 
that, when they differed, the shouts of the assembled village 
community settled the question which of them pronounced 
.the most righteous judgment. This explanation, therefore, is 
in harmony with Greek habits, 1 and what is more, with the 
habits of a time when law had not yet displaced custom. 
Further, the two talents can hardly be regarded as the wer- 
geld in dispute ; for according to //. xxiii. 75, half a talent of 
gold is worth less than an ox, and a female slave was worth 
four oxen. A free man, therefore, would be appraised at more 
than two talents. 

The two esse